When you have to dig through your couch cushions to gather coins for your weekly naan fix, it's fair to assume that things are not looking up. Worse is the Travel Channel taunting you in the background with exotic locales, exciting new cultures, and never-ending feasts of roasted meats, local street foods, and the requisite Fear Factor–like challenges. Despondent and bored, you trudge through several feet of snow for a spicy escape tightly packed in a take-out box. Stop right there.
In a recession that's sidelined even most seasoned jetsetters with increased responsibilities and crappy exchange rates, it's still possible to satiate the travel bug (albeit temporarily) and get cultured on the cheap. Whether you miss your college backpacking days, want to delve into your ancestry, or are just curious about other cultures, continuing-education courses in international cuisine can help unleash your inner Anthony Bourdain and maybe even impress a dinner date.
Learning quick and easy ways to cook your favorite takeout dishes — whether they're Indian, Chinese, Thai, or even Ukrainian — can save you big bucks, and is an affordable way to explore the outside world. A lot can be learned about a foreign country from its cuisine, after all, which is why continuing-education centers are branching out from their French, Italian, and Japanese cooking classes to offer tastes of Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and exotic Caribbean and Pacific locales. It's never been easier to globalize your taste buds — or your kitchen.
Beyond the basics
International cuisine, especially French and Italian techniques, has long been a staple of culinary education and recreation. Institutions like Cambridge School for the Culinary Arts (CSCA), Johnson & Wales in Providence, and Newbury College in Brookline lay a foundation of skills and show how international influences translate into the American culinary landscape.
CSCA's popular couples cooking classes, for instance, are offered in Spanish, French, Tuscan, Indian, and Italian cuisine. In February and May, the school holds "Favorites From the City of Lights" ($80), an overview of Parisian specialties like mussels in velouté sauce, chicken fricassee with cognac, and cream-puff croquembouche. The following month, curious cooks can check out "A Taste of the Spanish Caribbean" ($80).
If you're looking for a more global food education, however, you may want to check out the increasingly exotic options offered by local adult education centers. This winter and spring, the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) offers "The Western Kingdom: Moroccan Friday Night," "Isla: Cooking of the Spanish Caribbean," "A Visit to Moscow," "Beyond Borscht: Foods of the Ukraine and Eastern Europe," "Caribbean Fish and Fruits," "Authentic Vietnam and Singapore," and two classes in Persian cuisine. These one-session classes range from $64 to $70, including materials.
The programs cater to "people who are looking for something a little unique to spend their time on, and a little more bang for their buck," says Jennifer Scott, BCAE's external-affairs manager. And often, she adds, "It's something they wouldn't get a chance to do anywhere else."