It was a fast start for Joseph Shuldiner's Institute of Domestic Technology, a school focused on rediscovering slow food. It began as an afterthought, launched at the now-defunct Altadena Urban Farmers' Market on the historic Zane Grey Estate, still a residence, in October of 2010.
The market was started by Stephen Rudicel, owner of both The Press restaurant in Claremont, and the Grey estate. The first month, 250 people visited the new word-of-mouth market on the grounds. Shuldiner, one of many who helped organize the market, noticed the groundswell of support and acted on it. "The market would be sold out and people wouldn't leave because they were excited by the energy." So, he fashioned classes in a back room on the grounds, where market-goers crammed into 45-minute demonstrations of home food preserving and making herbal toiletries and cleaning supplies.
"Right now, you see tons of cooking classes, but very little food preserving or food crafting and curing classes out there." These classes are more than how to get dinner on the table. Shuldiner stresses the art of making ingredients that people use at the dinner table, like cheeses, mustards and preserves.
"In southern California, it's not that we don't have access [to ingredients], it's that we don't have access to how to make them." He notes that people take his classes for many reasons, from wanting to not rely on corporations to provide food items to people's curiosity about the science of making certain foods. But mostly, he's seeing foodies who are into cooking, but want to know how the individual elements are made. He calls what he's doing now "the future of Home Ec." So, what does that future look like?
The farmers' market is no longer extant, but Shuldiner has kept moving forward, formally creating the Institute of Domestic Technology in August of 2011, to a roster of sold-out classes. Food Crafting 101 is a popular day-long session held once a month. Students learn the basics of wild yeast cultivation for bread-making taught by Erik Knutzen, author of The Urban Homestead; jam making with Kevin West; and a mustard making class taught by Shuldiner. Other workshops include coffee roasting, cocktail making and a Milk Crafting series, where students learn how to make yogurts and soft and hard cheeses. The hands-on classes are still held on the estate, and owner Rudicel caters lunches for students using ingredients (including the cheeses) made or grown on the property.
Shuldiner is a recent graduate of the Los Angeles County Master Food Preservers program, an intensive 12-week food safety and preservation technique course offered by the University of California Cooperative Extension. Although his background is as a creative director for print publications, he still makes full use of his design skills in this new adventure. He designs all the handouts, name tags and labels with a classic bygone era aesthetic in mind. "My design skills now come out in the packaging of the classes, and people are responding to that whole experience. Coming from an artistic family, it makes sense to me. I never saw myself doing this, but it all relates to who I am."
Find the Institute of Domestic Technology this weekend at the Artisanal LA fair in the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. Shuldiner will be conducting demos in the art of homemade mustards.
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