“You just need a desire to cook and bake and eat,” said Barden.
Each class will teach the skills needed to produce the day’s recipes, culled from a trove of comfort food classics and world cuisine favorites. Cooking classes will tackle meatballs, meat sauce and spaghetti; meatloaf and mashed potatoes; real chicken nuggets with brown-sugar-corn-flake crust; Mexican enchiladas; Asian stir-fry dishes; full breakfasts, including perfect hard-boiled eggs and omelets, crisp bacon, fluffy pancakes and fruit parfaits with homemade granola. Baking classes will sift their way through everything from homemade cakes and cookies, hearty biscuits and Caroline’s Famous Brown Butter Brownies. In addition to the skills needed to measure, mix and select ingredients, students will learn kitchen safety and clean-up -- and get to eat and bring home their creations.
It’s a course Barden may have taken as a teen, if given the option. As a child, she was prohibited from “making a mess” in the family kitchen. By college age, she still hadn’t learned the ABCs of home cooking.
“I was 20 years old, at the house of a friend who said, ‘I made sauce, can you go make some spaghetti?’ and I really didn’t even know how to do it. The pot was too big; the flame was too low; it took forever and the water still didn’t boil. I didn’t know, and I didn’t have the confidence to start learning,” said Barden.
She was soon a working mother of three, splitting time between her family and jobs as a radio personality at K104, WHUS, WRWD and Thunder Country, with even less time to learn. It took an involvement with River Church in Poughkeepsie to lead Barden back to the kitchen. The Bread of Life Ministry needed volunteers to feed 20-25 hungry people in need each week, and Barden heeded the calling. Through trial and error, and a healthy dose of The Food Network, she was planning and cooking hearty, healthy meals for 80 people by the end of a three-year stint.
“Over the past 10 years, I’ve spent a lot of time learning and I love it. Cooking is a stress-buster. When I’m slicing and dicing, there’s something about it that calms me, and I’m exhilarated and excited at the same time. I can spend a whole Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, cooking and baking. They’re true passions of mine, and I’d like to make them accessible and approachable for others,” said Barden.
In addition to operating Caroline’s Country Corner store, where Barden stocked a complete line of her own irresistible home-baked goods, she has professionally catered and worked as a vendor of Sprout Creek Farm artisan cheeses at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City.
Her hope for her students is that empowerment will lead to confidence and a sense of pride in a positive, useful new skill.
“Cooking -- and baking, especially -- takes patience. Kids are typically impatient. But they’ll see that you don’t really need the high on your stove for almost anything, and it’s worth it to take some time working at it. When you cream that butter, and you take an extra 30 seconds and all of a sudden it comes into the dough, it’s that ‘aha’ moment, ‘This is what it’s supposed to be.’ It’s a magical thing. I want to help people find it,” said Barden.
As the school progresses, Barden wants to add classes that aim to cook for families in need, delivering her students’ creations door-to-door at the day’s end. She will also offer private and group classes for singles, newlyweds and senior citizens.
To sign up for a class or for more information, contact Caroline Barden at 464-2061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Church and non-profit organizations that know of those in need are also welcome to call.