Shannon is a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother of a toddler and year-old infant who lives in a working class neighborhood north of Seattle. With just one income, she’s vigilant about her grocery spending, keeping it within $700 a month. Takeout isn’t in the budget.

Before the project: Shannon lamented her knife skills, and her inability to judge a recipe when reading it. She wished that she could replicate dishes she had on infrequent trips dining out. She felt uncomfortable cooking meat, citing an irrational fear of undercooked chicken. “I’m so terrified of chicken that I pretty much cook it to death.” She tried to make fish, but that was always a boring night since she “didn’t know what to do with fish.” But then, a lot of her food turned out bland. “Sauces, all that stuff is beyond me. I’ll buy a packet.” She wished that she was the kind of cook who could look into the fridge and come up with a meal. “I’m looking at this zucchini and thinking, what do I do with it?”

After the project: Shannon truly became fearless in her kitchen. She’d made applesauce a couple weeks earlier and “got into the zen” of all the knife work. She became expert at turning leftovers into meals, and recently replicated a dish she’d had on vacation. “It was braised lamb on a bed of polenta,” and I thought, “Hey, I know how to braise. Polenta can’t be that hard.” She made a variation on it using pork for lunch that turned out great.

Shannon’s takeaway: She discovered her own natural talent for cooking, and took it to another level by joining the Master Canning program in her county. Now, Shannon teaches knife skills and basic cooking along with canning techniques. “I think the ingredient I was missing was confidence.”

Most impactful lessons: Knife skills, chicken class, fish, vinaigrette

Video from Shannon’s initial home visit. (They will launch in a new window on YouTube.)


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