On October 5, Spider in the Kitchen, the university's food club on campus that focuses on an exchange of recipes, entertaining and cooking ideas among campus foodies, will host its second event this semester, with a "Soups and Stews" theme.
Attendees can sample a menu of tomato bisque, Portuguese sausage and onion stew, Cajun-style gumbo, turkey chili, sandwiches, pumpkin cookies and chocolate bread pudding, put together by Glenn Pruden, the university's executive chef and Cynthia Stearns, assistant director of marketing and special programs, who have worked together for 33 years.
Stearns and other dining hall employees, who provide a wealth of resources, founded Spider in the Kitchen in February 2008. The club, which is open to anyone and usually attracts between 65 and 90 people, meets three times a semester and is catered toward seasonal food and entertaining.
"I was at the inception," Stearns said. "The idea was with the interest people have in cooking now, which has grown even more with The Food Network, we get requests for recipes, so we give them tips."
Since its beginning, the food club has hosted themes such as tailgating, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day and clam bakes, among others. Stearns and Pruden tossed around future theme ideas, including Mardi Gras, Oktoberfest and Southwestern-style cooking. Stearns encourages ideas to make the club more collaborative.
Recipes are distributed at the meeting so they can be recreated.
"With the recipes we tend to change some but with others we keep them," Pruden said. "You can't reinvent everything."
Some recipes are found online and need to be tested for feasibility and taste before the events.
Two people who send in innovative recipes that are easy to produce and/or demonstrate are given a free ticket into the event.
"As a matter of fact, the whole idea is to do demos," Stearns said. To ensure that attendees have a hands-on experience, they sometimes participate and in the past have learned to make pasta and chocolate covered strawberries.
In addition to giving cooking lessons, ideas and tips, there is a focus on entertaining. Whether making centerpieces, tying bows or presenting food in an artful manner, the events are meant to inspire a comprehensive approach to hosting gatherings.
Senior Bridget Fischer, a UFA resident who had not previously heard of the club, said: "I'm always looking for new and exciting cooking ideas. Now that I live in an apartment, I'm looking forward to learning new recipes from Spider in the Kitchen."
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The Spider in the Kitchen gatherings foster a community atmosphere and draw faculty, administration and friends of the university. Student attendance dwindles because the meetings occur at lunchtime. But Stearns said she would like to increase student attendance.
The cost to attend is around $13, which includes a gourmet lunch, themed to please. The last Spider in the Kitchen meeting will be on November 9 and will rely on the upcoming holidays for inspiration.
To make a reservation, call Cindy Stearns at (804) 289-8788.
Contact reporter Sarah Craig at email@example.com
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