2008-12-11 / Editorial

I love to learn new things

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

My grandmother told me many times that I should learn something new every day. And, I often find that whenever I set out to learn a new skill, I often learn other things that I didn't know I needed to learn.

Most recently, my husband and I took a brief weekend vacation to the Berkshires to learn how to make our own cheese. Not only did we hone our abilities to turn plain old milk into mozzarella, ricotta and cheddar, among others, but we also got an earful about the politics of milk. This is not something that had been on my radar screen in the past.

Apparently, what used to be a wholesome beverage that we've fed to our children for eons is fast becoming an über processed product that virtually bears no resemblance to its former self once it hits the store shelves. Pasteurization at very high temperatures reduces the vitamin, enzyme, and protein levels in milk. Not only that, milk is taken from local farms, trucked far away to be ultra-pasteurized, and then trucked even further away to be sold, which requires a great expenditure of fossil fuels that pollute the environment and make the product cost more than it should. But, here in Rhode Island we are lucky in that we have our own Rhody Fresh milk—some of which comes from Dutra Farm here in Jamestown.

The reason we got on this subject in cheese-making class is that you can't just walk into a store to buy a jug of milk and expect it to be a good basis for cheese. After so much processing, with most milk, it's no longer possible to do that.

I wrote to the makers of Rhody Fresh to check on the suitability for cheese making and learned that it is pasteurized at a low enough temperature that it will work out well for that purpose. If you are trying to make cheese, as I am, you must find milk that is pasteurized at a temperature below 172 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw milk, according to our cheese teachers, is the best option for cheese making, but Rhode Island, along with 22 other states, prohibits its sale. Raw milk can be obtained in certain towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Visit www.cheesemaking.com for more information about good quality milk and where to find it. You can also sign up for the basic cheese making class, which begins again in the spring.

There are so many places where we can learn new things and winter is the perfect time to do just that.

At the Newport Art Museum there are classes for adults and children all through the year. Here are some of the classes that especially appeal to me. Garden Pottery is a ceramics class that teaches participants how to make their own garden sculpture. Learn to make items like bird baths and tiles, which will be ready to put in the garden come spring. This class runs for eight weeks, beginning Jan. 28. An art history class that interests me is called Japanese Aesthetics and runs for two sessions beginning Feb. 11. Learn all about textile-dying techniques, handmade papers, lacquered furniture, etc. in this class that delves into all things Japanese. Visit www.newportartmuseum.org for a complete list of classes.

Store Four in Wakefield offers many cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes during the year. Coming soon is a lesson in how to make the perfect buffet for a Super Bowl party. That class runs for one night on Jan. 22. On Feb. 24, learn to put together a scrumptious winter brunch menu. Either way, it's always good to tune up our entertaining skills to impress friends and family.

Store Four classes also include suggested wine pairings to go with their menu items. For more information visit www.storefour.net.

The Learning Connection has been around for years, and I've taken several classes from them. Fun offerings this winter include a drawing course called Creating Caricatures. In just four sessions, learn to draw funny pictures of your co-workers or friends, or start a career as a political cartoonist. This one begins Jan. 15.

Here's one I'm going to take: Grooming your dog at home. Even if I can't figure out how to make him beautiful, I'd love to learn to give my English setter a pedicure, get out the mats, and keep him trimmed and neat in between grooming sessions. This class is just one session on Feb. 18.

Here's an intriguing one good for couples or maybe singles looking to pair up—how about "Fung Shui for Romance?" On Jan. 24 you can learn how to create spaces for romance in your home or location of your choice. Hey, it can't hurt!

A list of more than 275 classes is available at www.southcoastlearning. org.

So, now that days are short and winter has taken a firm grip on our landscape, we can make one of two choices: bundle up on the couch and watch TV for three months, or try our hands at new experiences, see new things and make some new friends. I'll be taking option two.

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