It has always been a dream of mine to take cooking classes in Paris, so when my 30th birthday rolled around, I knew exactly what I wanted. My husband dutifully signed us up for a 3-hour lunchtime lesson at La Cuisine Paris (I’ll put it this way, if left to his own devices, he would microwave his dinner or bring it home in a paper bag). Choosing a cooking class abroad can be overwheleming, and we chose this one for several reasons: it was affordable, lessons were taught in English (almost half of us were celebrating our birthday, so clearly this is the thing to do for Americans in Paris!), and there were a variety of classes, dates and times to choose from. We were instructed to meet outside one of the oldest markets in Paris, The Marché Maubert, where our lesson would begin with a tour of the market and the chance to pick fresh, seasonal produce for our meal.
Despite the grey, damp weather , the market was bustling and we crowded around the different stalls while our chef chatted up the vendors and arranged for the group to sample various sausages, cheeses and fruits, all locally produced or grown—hors d’oeuvres if you will. Our afternoon menu was decided then and there, based on what looked fresh and plentiful – a departure from how I normally shop for food in the US. We filled our shopping bags with magrets de canard (duck breasts), aubergine (eggplant), pumpkin, apples, black radishes, beets and fresh herbs. We purchased only what we needed, nothing more, nothing less and I distinctly remember thinking “How will we feed 14 people with only 4 duck breasts!?”
From the market, we walked as a group to La Cuisine Paris where they greeted us with hot coffee and tea. We washed up, donned plastic aprons and each of us was given a cutting board, a knife and a task. Everything was very simply prepared, but delicious – not a fussy “French” cooking lesson, which I actually appreciated because we’ve repeated just about everything from memory back home. Shockingly, the duck breasts were very big, and when they came out of the oven, we sliced them and drizzled more of the glaze over them – plenty for everyone to have 2-3 big slices.The conversation was lively, and soon the 12 strangers in our class became friends. Within 90 minutes, we had a beautiful meal prepared and sat down as a group at a long communal table to feast and drink wine.