This past Christmas, Chris gifted me a cheesemaking cooking class at Home Cooking NY on Grand Street in lower Manhattan that took place yesterday. It was the second time I’ve taken a class here, as the first one was on Vietnamese cooking that I did last year after returning from Vietnam. I didn’t really love the Vietnamese cooking class last year, as I felt that the main instructor kept talking over and interrupting her Vietnamese guest instructor too much to the point that it seemed condescending. But during this cheesemaking course, the instructor seemed far more in her own element, going through facts on the cheese industry both in the U.S. and abroad while also making wise cracks and sarcastic comments about the U.S. federal and state level government regulations on raw milk and cheese (“Here in New York state, it’s illegal to sell raw milk, so you have to go to the border of Pennsylvania to buy it … the state is trying to protect you from absolutely nothing, so…” and also about the poor state of education here in the U.S. (“when I used to teach real culinary school, you wouldn’t believe how dumb my students were… they didn’t know what terms like ‘opaque’ or ‘translucent’ meant. I said to them, ‘do you know what ‘see-through’ means? Well, that is what ‘translucent’ means. And the opposite of that — what you CANNOT see through, that is ‘opaque’! Got it?!” It was a bit hilarious and unexpected, and at times could be tiring to see how jaded she was, but it definitely was entertaining at times.
We made mozzarella, paneer, ricotta, cashew “ricotta,” saag paneer, and caprese sandwiches during class. I enjoyed it and learned a good amount, and I’m now feeling more interested in prioritizing making ricotta and paneer myself sometime soon, as both had already been on my to-make list for a while (isn’t everything?). But, I will say that the instructor’s saag paneer was not to my liking; everyone else raved about it (some of these people claimed to eat Indian food regularly but had never heard of saag paneer or palak paneer — how can you claim to eat Indian food in this country and never have eaten or even seen this at a restaurant?!), but I found it too heavy on the tomatoes and a bit westernized. I realize that dried methi leaves are not easily sourced, but if you really want to make authentic tasting saag paneer, you absolutely need to have these, and all it takes is one or two tiny pinches of it to make a world’s difference. They can be bought at any Indian grocery store or on Amazon. I wasn’t going to be the smart ass in class to say it to the instructor or any other white person raving about this dish in class (even though my instructor was a self-professed “smart ass” and likely could have handled it), so I said nothing instead, preferring to keep the peace with 10 people I’d likely never see again.