Learning to cook is less difficult and more fun than you may think

If you still avoid any kind of cooking duties at home, that's just sad. And claiming that your mother wouldn't let you near the kitchen, much less teach you anything, is no excuse. There are loads of options, most of them inexpensive (and some free), for anyone willing to take knife in hand and learn to prepare something a little more challenging and appealing than a bologna sandwich.

Cancer Prevention and Survival Cooking Course

Thursdays, 6:30-8 p.m., May 7-28: the Cancer Center, Parma Community General Hospital, 6525 Powers Blvd., Parma; for information contact Jessica Young at 440.743.2223. Mondays, 5:30-7:30 p.m., May 4-June 1 (except May 25): Fairview Hospital, 1st Floor Conference Room, 18200 Lorain Ave., Cleveland; contact Jean Ellsworth-Wolk at 216.476.7000.

Sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit the Cancer Project (cancerproject.org), this free series is designed to teach cancer prevention and survival through better nutrition — specifically, a low-fat vegetarian diet. The sessions are: Introduction to How Foods Fight Cancer; Fueling Up on Low-Fat, High-Fiber Foods; Discovering Dairy and Meat Alternatives; and Cancer-Fighting Compounds/Healthy Weight Control.

Cooking Thyme

King James Plaza, 25076 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake, 440.808.8808, cooking-thyme.com

Cooking Thyme's sessions are as much about convenience as they are about learning new skills. In two hours you'll rotate through 12 stations, making meals to take home and serve or freeze. Groups of friends can schedule private parties.

Mustard Seed Market & Cafe

Uptown Solon Shopping Center, 6025 Kruse Dr., Solon, 877.496.3663; and West Market Plaza, 3885 W. Market St., Akron, 888.476.2379; mustardseedmarket.com.

Organic before organic was cool, the Mustard Seed offers lots of presentations on sustainability and the like, and some on nutritional issues — like "The Omega-3 Solution," on controlling inflammation with fish oils. The free class is offered June 9 in Montrose and June 10 is Solon. "Get Up and Go!" (on sports nutrition) is June 20 in Montrose and June 27 in Solon.

The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking

8613 Mayfield Rd., Chesterland, 888.748.4063, lpscinc.com

This school is the real deal, a place for aspiring professional chefs. But it also offers a wide range of one-offs and series for hobbyists. Many upcoming sessions are already sold out, but classes with seats remaining as of press time included "New York Pizza" (May 5), "The World of Italian Cheese" (May 11), "A Day in the Kitchen With Loretta: Cooking Bolognese" (May 16), "Caribbean Island Flavors" (May 22) and Crab Fest (May 28). Paganini's also has classes for kids and teens.

Sur La Table

28819 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere, 216.378.1800, cooking037@surlatable.com, surlatable.com (look for "cooking classes" link at top left)

"Date Night: Provence" (May 15), focusing on dishes from southern France, is a pleasant compromise for couples differing over whether to eat out or eat in. "Tuscany on the Grill" (May 29) will teach new options for outdoor summer cooking — and doesn't grilled pizza with pears, fresh pecorino and walnuts sound a lot more appetizing than hot dogs?

Viking Cooking School

Legacy Village, 24703 Cedar Rd., Lyndhurst, 216.381.2100, vikingcookingschool.com

The high-end cookware and cooking-gadget store also boasts a gorgeous kitchen classroom that can accommodate around a dozen students at a time (reservations usually required). There are sessions almost every day, and upcoming themes include Cinco de Mayo (April 30), "Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate" (May 9), "Prep Once, Dine for Days" (May 13) and French Culinary Basics (May 23).

Western Reserve School Of Cooking

140 N. Main St., Hudson, 330.650.1665, wrsoc.com

The WRSOC takes all comers, from pros to amateurs. For the latter, one-off sessions in coming weeks include "Mozarella Workshop" (May 2), "Hor d'oeuvres & Wine" (May 14), "Cakes & Tortes" (May 21) and "Thrill of the Grill: Seafood" (May 29).

Whole Foods

13998 Cedar Rd., University Heights, 216.932.3918, wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/cleveland

The natural, organic foods supermarket offers lots of programs, including the weekly Quest for Cooking, 7-8 p.m. Tuesdays. Quest is usually led by Whole Foods' Dave Moss, but special guests have been lured for upcoming sessions. On May 12, chef/owner Marlin Kaplan of Luxe Kitchen & Lounge (luxecleveland.com) presents "Kitchen Vitality." And on May 26, chef/owner Sunny Ting from Ty Fun Thai Bistro (tyfunthaibistro.com) will share "More Fun Thai Secrets."

Whole Foods' Woodmere location (27249 Chagrin Blvd. 216.464.9403, wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/chagrin) offers classes with with Moss on Wednesday nights.



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