By Cara Leahy, Student Reporter
Flames leap from the stove as Pamela Pendergrass slides a pan across the burner, tossing vegetables and sprinkling spices as if she were Abilene’s own Rachel Ray.
It is Saturday morning at Southern Hills Church of Christ, and several women have gathered for a class to learn the secret to cost-conscious cooking. Ranging from college students to elderly adults, they are crowded into the church kitchen, watching as Pendergrass manipulates three pans at once.
Charismatic and capable, Pendergrass draws laughter from the assembled women as she calls for help, handing off a finished plate as she turns back to the stove.
It is just one of six dishes Pendergrass completed in under an hour, the longest preparation time for one dish coming in at 25 minutes.
While she prepared the meal, Pendergrass gave tips for cost-effective cooking, such as buying items in bulk rather than individually. She demonstrated this by dismantling a whole chicken, expertly sorting out wings and thighs that, when purchased separately, would total more than the price of the entire bird.
Another tip came from Alice Brown (’59) who co-led the class. Brown reminded the women not to get caught up in name brands, explaining that store brands are often the same product sold at a lower price.
“People say, ‘Oh, if I buy the store brand, it won’t have the same kind of quality,'” Brown said.
Brown dismissed this misconception with a story about her visit to a bakery, where one bread recipe was packaged with three different labels, some she knew sold for less than another name brand.
Pendergrass said one of her goals was to teach women how to create meals that “[taste] like you fussed,” while remaining cost-efficient.
“Things like this, when you go to a nicer restaurant, would be very expensive,” she said.
Sara Beckett, sophomore speech pathology major from Sugarland, took the opportunity to ask more questions of Pendergrass. Her reason for attending the class had personal importance; she is getting married in May and she does not know how to cook.
Beckett, as one of a handful of college students who attended, was a prime example of why Pendergrass and Brown wanted to do the class.
“This younger generation doesn’t know how to cook,” Brown said. “They’ve been reared on fast food.”
Brown closed the meeting with a gift giveaway and the opportunity to take home samples of kitchen seasonings. All attendees went home with free spices, and a few others took the opportunity to cook for themselves some of the dishes Pendergrass had created.
While Pendergrass said she was unsure whether she would sponsor a similar event in the future, those interested in additional tips can view How to Break Down A Chicken, a video from the Cooking 101 series on the Abilene Reporter-News Web site. That video, and others like it, can be found at www.reporternews.com/videos under “Food and Dining” in the Life section.