(This post marks the premiere of my new “Hometown Tourist” series, dedicated to discovering new adventures right here in the Atlanta metro area.)
Inspired, in part, by the movie Forks over Knives, Clyde has a growing interest in being a vegan — adopting a diet that contains no animal products whatsoever. That transition entails learning entirely new ways of shopping for and preparing meals, so I booked us into a vegan cooking class from Soul2Soul Educare.
So this past Saturday, we got our shots, donned pith helmets, bought machetes, hired a translator, climbed aboard a well-trained elephant, and headed outside the perimeter (I know! ) to the Loving Hut restaurant in Norcross. We arrived a little early — which was good, because more than forty other people had ponied up five bucks a head to book themselves into the session.
Husband and wife team David and Neeta Sanders (with a hand from son Bharat) led the class, which runs a bit like a Food Network show. (There’s even a plasma display showing close-ups of range-top action.)
Neeta is the queen of this particular kitchen, explaining ingredients, offering shopping tips, and popping questions to the audience. (“Know why I use grapeseed oil for cooking? It has all the health advantages of other oils, but also has a lower burning point.”)
David is the tech guy and her eager assistant, filling pots, swapping out gas canisters, snipping open bags, and twisting open reluctant jars. Bharat greets new arrivals, takes tickets, lends a hand with the preparation and serving, and handles the crowd with remarkable poise for his age.
In short: if you were trying to sell vegan lifestyles as healthy and wholesome, these would be the kind of sweet, earnest people you’d want selling it. But especially at five bucks a pop, the Sanders family isn’t selling it … they’re practically giving it away!
In our session, the Sanders cooked up two dishes: vegan mac and cheese (with faux sausages) and vegan fettucini alfredo.
Having gnawed my way through far too many a bowl of gummy whole wheat pasta and having spat out far too many globs of fake cheese products, I was skeptical about both the “mac” and the “cheese” in the vegan mac and cheese. But Neeta used Tinkyata brown rice pasta, which has a far more pleasant mouthfeel than any of the whole wheat alternatives, and Daiya, a tapioca-based cheese substitute that (gasp!) actually melts like cheese.
The end result was pretty good, especially after adding a dash of hot sauce (which helps cover that odd, plastic “off note” I associate with fake cheese).
The fettucini was good, but less successful in terms of taste and texture. The “win” here, though, was finding out about Earth Balance soy-free butter alternative, a good non-dairy product that tastes, looks, and acts just like butter, whether you’re snacking or baking.
Final verdict: the information’s useful and the samples are tasty, but it’s clear that David, Neeta, and Bharat are the star attractions here. They’re engaging, approachable, and easy to get to know, so the ninety-minute session feels less like a cooking class and more like sitting in the kitchen with a trio of new friends. You’re not likely to have this much fun for $5.00 anywhere else, inside the perimeter or out … so head on over to the Soul2Soul website and book yourself into next month’s session.