A global cooking course often leaves students hungry for more when it comes to learning about a new culture. And according to Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE) Thai cooking instructor Wichian Rojanawon, exploring a country's arts, traditions, and people puts food into context and enhances the culinary experience.
"Food is part of a culture. It evolves with the country," he stresses. "In order to appreciate the food, you have to know the culture."
For some, the journey into a new culture is literal: a leisurely trip to a foreign land to meet the people, speak the language, and view the art. However, fewer Americans are now able to afford travel abroad, and many of those who can pay can't get the time off.
Though several local continuing-education schools and centers — including CCAE and Lesley University — have travel programs, they're inactive during the winter. While you wait it out for your next globetrotting adventure, classes in international dance, music, art, and language are an affordable way to build on your new food know-how within the confines of your busy lifestyle.
BCAE has partnered with Springstep in Medford to expand its dance offerings. In coming months, students can choose from "African Dance" ($30), "Samba for Couples" ($75), "Brazilian Samba and Forro" ($35), and tango, salsa, and other Latin dances, as well as the dance-based "Bollywood Fitness" ($15).
CCAE is trying its first three-session "Bollywood Dance" ($131) class this winter and runs "Irish Dance for Beginners" ($84) and a variety of Latin dances. It's also branching out into more world-music programs, explains program coordinator Michael Cicone, noting that the success of last term's "Music of Brazil" will be followed up this term with "Music of India" (price to be determined).
Arts classes are mirroring expanded cooking classes options, like at BCAE, which follows up February's "Beyond Borscht: Foods of the Ukraine and Eastern Europe" ($64) with "Ukrainian Egg Decorating" ($78). The art of decorating eggs with wax and dye designs is hundreds of years old and was a sleeper hit when it joined BCAE's roster last year. This March, the class is offered twice with instructor Sonia Kowal.
Another international art that's catching on locally is Japanese Shibori, a form of resist dying that's similar to tie-dying but more complex. It's offered at Brookline Adult and Community Education and CCAE, which also began teaching "Polish Paper Cutting" (or wycinanki) last spring.
Cicone adds that continuing-education programs are constantly expanding and responding to public demand. Programmers like himself, he says, are open to suggestions.