A Jamaica Plain resident is channeling the power of food to help bring people together.
Jennifer Comstock, a former professional pastry cook who lives on Lourdes Avenue, moved to JP last April and wanted to give her neighbors an opportunity to meet each other while learning cooking and baking techniques. She started hosting a monthly workshop and so far topics have included pie, risotto, brunch, crepes, and parfaits.
“The idea came to me on my honeymoon when I was hiking in South Africa—I love to bake and cook, and I enjoy bringing people together…why not do both at the same time? My husband and I have also been entertaining the idea of opening a guest house in the near future, and this seems like a nice step in that direction,” said Comstock in an email to the Gazette.
Comstock said that the monthly workshops usually last about two hours with six to eight attendees. There is a round of introductions before Comstock gives an overview of what they are going to do.
“Each work space is set up with a printed recipe card so participants can follow along and take the recipes home. I ask everyone if there is anything particular they would like to learn, then we dive in,” said Comstock. “All the ingredients are set out on the counter for everyone to access, and I demonstrate each step of the process. When people are making their own serving, they do each step themselves.
“Sometimes, we have a group project, like a pasta sauce, so we divvy up the tasks. ‘Who wants to learn a new technique for cutting onions? Who likes to get their hands messy by squeezing the tomatoes?’ I initiate the process and then supervise as an attendee takes over, and we work as a team toward our goal. At the end of the workshop, we all sit down together to enjoy the fruit of our labor!”
According to Comstock, the food they cook depends on a vast array of factors, including seasonal dishes, like pumpkin pie in November and strawberry parfaits in May.
“I also look at what can be prepared within the two-hour workshop, both so people can fit the event into their schedules, and so they can feel like they can reproduce what we make at home without having to clear an entire afternoon,” she said. “And I think it’s more fun for the workshops to be hands-on, so I look for dishes that can be made in individual portions, like mini pies and small servings of pasta. Lastly, I ask my attendees what they would like to make. Up until this month, I had been running a different theme for each class, but the fresh pasta has been so popular I decided to repeat the workshop for November.”
For more information about the workshop, visit neighborfoodgroup.com. Comstock can also be emailed for private classes at [email protected]