Recently, I was lucky enough to corner interview one of the members of our Jersey Biters Social network and founder of Cooking With Friends Club(TM), Alison Bermack. I think you’ll enjoy this look into what the Cooking with Friends Club is all about and what their very happy members have to say.
Q: What is “Cooking With Friends”?
Alison: Cooking With Friends is so many things. Simply put, it’s the act of friends getting together in one of their home kitchens and cooking together towards a mutually beneficial goal — family dinner, party foods, baby food, lunches, breakfast foods, birthday cakes — you name it! It is a timely alternative (during tough economic times) for people (mostly women) to connect with others while cooking for themselves and their families. It is social while constructive, makes economic sense (sharing ingredients and expenses) and most of all, it’s enjoyable. Cooking With Friends is a meaningful way to celebrate the process of cooking and not just the end result.
Q: Who is behind the Cooking with Friends Club? When was it Started?
Alison: I am the founder and creator of the Cooking With Friends Club. However, my best friend from High School (Shannon Henry Kleiber) is my partner and has been for more than a year. We run CWF together.
Q: What was your inspiration for starting the Cooking With Friends Club?
Alison: An overwhelming interest from friends wanting to cook with me. I started cooking with my friend Debbie about ten years ago when our kids were toddlers and babies. Other friends would stop by or hear about our cooking sessions and want to try for themselves. Soon this interest grew outside of my own little circle of friends and people were approaching me for advice and ideas about Cooking With Friends. Demand grew and iI am just one little person! I started a Yahoo group as a forum to provide inspiration and instructional tips on Cooking With Friends and as a means to help others connect and form their own cooking relationships.
From my Yahoo group:
“The Cooking with Friends Club is an online community connecting people through the common goal of cooking and eating good food. We think cooking with a friend or family member is more fun, economical and efficient than cooking alone. Cooking together gives you a chance to slow down and talk while you are chopping, sautéing and simmering. You can use the site to share recipes, trade ideas, and schedule cooking dates and swaps. The file section is chock full of advice, inspiration, ideas and big batch recipes that will help you cook with your friends.”
Q: How many members do you have and how does someone become a member?
Alison: As of right now, membership is free in the Cooking With Friends Club Yahoo group and so is a subscription to our free Cooking With Friends e-newsletter. We also have a Facebook group. It’s hard to calculate the number of members since many CWFC members are connected (we call these “connectors”) to CWF communities they created outside of our direct community. But, to give you an estimate, we have thousands of people accessing our website on a regular basis for tips and recipes, almost a thousand newsletter subscribers, more than 400 Yahoo members and with more than 200 members, an actively growing Facebook Cooking With Friends Club. Our members live all across the country and in Canada. We have an active group in New Jersey, Denver, Florida and Arizona. We also have members in NY, CT, PA, NE, WI. . .all over. Members get several recipes a month that are suitable to for group cooking, tips, time saving tool recommendations and loads of cooking together tips. Mostly women with children are interested in CWF since it provides them with a new and fun way to connect with others while getting the necessary job of feeding the family done. However, we have single men and women also interested since it gives them a social outlet and way to connect with others.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for CWF?
Alison: To continue preaching the gospel of CWF thereby reaching and connecting with hundreds of thousands of people across America. To make this a truly National revolutionary movement.
Q: What do your members say about the Cooking With Friends Club?
Alison:Pretty powerful things. Some of the phrases I’ve heard from members:
It’s been “lifesaving” “life-changing” “revolutionary”
These are all the things that CWF has been for me. In fact, it has been “life defining” for me.
Here are a few quotes from members:
I am a big procrastinator with cooking. That’s why cooking ahead and with a friend has helped me tremendously. I am in a mom & kid playgroup. So, have lots of mom friends in the same boat. We do meals for moms whenever new babies are born. My friend and I always share the day for bringing a meal and cook together. But, we triple the batch. So, we leave with the new mommies meal and dinner for us! Love that!
Amber, CWFC Member
I wanted to share with everyone my first experience with cooking with a friend! My neighbor Amy is expecting and on moderate bedrest. She had an abundance of green tomatoes in her garden and I had my grandmothers home made sweet relish recipe. We decided to double the recipe (which promised 16-20 pints of relish) can it all and split the jars between us. I shopped for the remainder of the ingredients. On the first night the we cleaned and ground 50 green peppers, 25 red peppers, 6 heads of cabbage, 15 pounds of tomatoes, and 6 pounds of onions. The next day we cooked it and canned it and were shocked to find we had about 56 pints! I guess vegetables have just gotten bigger since my grandmothers day! It was a huge undertaking though and definitely so much fun to have done it with a friend.
Amy, CWFC Member
I finally managed to have two friends over to cook on Sunday afternoon. We each made a dinner entree–bologneses sauce made with ground turkey and turkey sausage, chicken pot-pie (using biscuits instead of pie crust) and hearty bean vegetable soup. Not only was it fun spend a few hours with friends but we shared cooking tips and exchanged recipes. What a luxury to know that dinner is already prepared for several days! So, thank you for the inspiration and encouragement.
Liza, Cooking with Friends Club Member
I just wanted to share my positive experience today in cooking with a new friend. Chris and I got together this afternoon to cook (myself the Harvest soup and for Chris, Split Pea) and we had a great experience. Great because we had such a good time (and were compatible cooks!) and in 2 hours cooked 5 quarts of soup each – 10 quarts in all. What a feeling of accomplishment looking at our finished product (of very beautiful orange and green colors!) We spend our last 1/2 hour together enjoying a bowl of soup (with some bread and cheese). It was a nice way to end the experience enjoying the fruits of our labor. We really did enjoy this time together cooking for this great cause. We also saw how plentiful our output was that I want to do it again soon to freeze some for my family and the cold days ahead.
Kathe, CWFC Member
I read about this wonderful group in Hallmark magazine and could not get to my computer fast enough to sign up. I am a mother of two living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I work full time and between my job, my children, my husband, my volunteer commitments and my house – I never feel I have enough time to do one of the things I truly enjoy – cooking. I have often thought of going to one of those Make Ahead Dinner classes so I can have healthy meals ready on the spur of the moment in my freezers. However, Alison‘s idea seems much more practical and fun – cooking with my friends – what could be better??? Also – cooking to help out my local food
pantry is something that I would love to do.
Kristin, CWFC Member
Q: Do you have any tips or advice for someone who would like to host a Cooking With Friends Club get-together?
Alison: Go to our website. We have a great article that offers 10 Tips for Hosting a Soup Swap. The website also offers recipe suggestions for everything from appetizers to deserts. I would also recommend that they join our yahoo group and ask our seasoned members for advice.