Something that always surprises “people from away” is the great number and variety of adult education courses offered throughout the state at Maine’s high schools. We’re talking more than eighty adult ed programs offering a total of 1795 classes on topics in business and skills training, high school completion, college transitions, and my favorite — personal enrichment. There’s even a great website that allows you to search courses and find programs in every nook and cranny of the state, so that wherever you are, you can learn something new and fascinating.
For instance, you might create an antique button bracelet in Arundel, or go on a “Baseball Bonanza” with folks from Gardiner. Sign up to participate in a financial literacy series in Madawaska, or glean the secrets of “Fresh Pumpkin Arrangements” in Bangor. If you aren’t “Curious About Cremation” (offered in Scarborough) you could become a blacksmith in Portland, or investigate some “Bed Bug Solutions” in the Kennebunks.
You can take dog obedience, CPR, sign language, and welding, or join with residents of Old Orchard Beach for “Backyard Chickens 101.” Dance until the cows come home (as my Vermont grandfather used to say) perfecting your zumba, ballroom, tap, square, or belly dancing, or master the intricacies of clogging with the Moose Creek Cloggers in Mt. Blue. Tree huggers will appreciate the “10 Biggest Mistakes Woodland Owners Make,” offered in Gardiner, while those of us who love our winter getaways might take a how-to class on packing tropical clothes called “7 Days in a Warm Place.”
Here in Camden, the arrival of the Adult Ed catalogue is as eagerly anticipated as the old-time Sears Roebuck’s used to be, and classes tend to fill up fast. So when a friend mentioned she had just signed up for “Making Sushi,” I whipped out my cell phone and called the high school. Before you could say “sayonara,” I was enrolled.
I’m not really sure why I was compelled to learn this type of Japanese cooking. I like sushi, yes, but I don’t really see myself having sushi parties or wowing my family with Inside Out Rolls on any given night. I already make ravioli with my pasta machine and that’s plenty labor intensive, so why add another ethnicity to the mix? Besides, like my fellow Maine crime bloggers Julia and Lea, I’m a lucky gal with a husband who cooks for me… and he’s not a big fan of raw fish.
But I do like to learn new things, and I’m nothing if not spontaneous (hence that instant cell phone call to register.) Plus, the heroine of my mystery series, the intrepid Darby Farr, is half Japanese. Why not learn sushi on her behalf?
So there I was on Saturday, in the Family Consumer Science room of Camden Hills Regional High School, with a group of eleven women and one man (taking the class because he fishes in Alaska, loves sushi, and wants to lose weight) plus our cheerful teacher Maho Hisakawa, who owns a tofu making company with her husband in Lincolnville.
We prepped all the ingredients: cooked the special sushi rice; steamed the kale and carrots;, sliced the scallions, cucumbers, shiitake, and avocados. On our pristine sushi mats we spread sheets of pressed seaweed or nori, shiny side down, and carefully filled them, making hosomaki (thin rolls,) temaki (hand rolls,) futomaki (thick rolls,) and non-authentic (but still yummy) inside-out rolls. We oohed, ahhed, and sampled along the way.
Maho was patient, encouraging, and funny. She shared stories about making sushi with her mother, and gave me her email address in case I had further questions. I left the class feeling as if I had been on a mini-vacation, a Baseball Bonanza, if you will, without the long trip to Fenway.
Who knows when Darby Farr will hanker for hosomaki? Or recall the soft sound of sesame seeds popping as they toasted on the stove? We writers can never predict when these stored-up experiences will come in handy. She’s also an aikido master, so maybe I’ve got some martial arts training in my future.
I do know that trying new things is the best way to write about them, and that learning often requires getting your hands dirty — or in my case, sticky — from savory sushi rice.