Ginger Passarelli Senecal’s reputation as a cook has spread far and wide.
Senecal, known to most simply as “Mama,” owns Mama’s Steak and Pasta (formerly Mama Passarelli’s Dinner House) in Black Diamond.
She is also founder of The Soup Ladies, an organization of volunteers that feeds first responders at disasters throughout the region and across the country.
Soup is her staple when responding to emergencies.
“Everybody wants to know the soup recipes that we use at the restaurant and for search and rescue and going out on emergencies,” Senecal said. “Soup is the fastest, heartiest and most nutritious meal that you can serve.”
In answer to requests for the recipes to her famous soups like beef stroganoff, Senecal decided to offer a class, and the “maiden voyage” was Oct. 24 at the restaurant.
The class began with four beef-based stocks in four separate pots in the kitchen at Mama’s.
“There were four very different, distinctive soups, but they all started out with a beef base,” she said. “What we covered was places to go shopping, the different kind of supplies to have on hand at all times, we talked about portioning out vegetables into zip lock bags.”
Senecal showed her students how to put together items like carrots, onions, celery and peppers into a bag, then creating the beef stock base and putting it into another to put into the freezer to be added into a pot and brought together with other ingredients to create soup quickly and easily.
She advised her pupils to buy ingredients when they went on sale to cook and freeze for later use, which comes in handy if you come home tired from work or need to be prepared for a couple of days after a disaster.
“The first hour we spent cooking,” Senecal said. “Then the next half hour we all tried the four soups that we made and talked about what we could add, what we could do differently.”
Sheila Lein, one of the students in the inaugural class, came away with a greater appreciation for soup.
“I learned so much in just a few short hours,” Lein said in an e-mail. “The pace was brisk and we made four different beef soups in record time. I’ve been cooking for longer than I’d care to admit, but I sure learned a lot last Saturday.”
Lein said she also appreciated Senecal’s shopping suggestions.
“Ginger also offered some fantastic food buying tips that will make life easier and more economical without jeopardizing quality,” Lein said. “The soup tasting session at the end of class was a nice way to compare all the different flavors. She really has amazing soup genes and loves to have fun.”
November is a busy time for Senecal, so, she does not have plans to offer another class this month but hopes to in December.
Classes will be limited to 10 students on the topic of soups while smaller classes with four or five students will be available when Senecal tackles other food like pasta.
Senecal encourages anyone interested in signing up to join social networking site Facebook then become a fan of Mama’s Steak and Pasta, which can be found under the restaurant’s previous name.
“I’ve already got people lined up,” she said. “It was just really fun. We had a hoot. It was kind of a spontaneous thing and I didn’t realize I was going to get such a response.”