Every day is a little bit different than the last right now, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact our daily lives. With many of our favorite restaurants closed or offering takeout only, our taprooms opting for curbside delivery and even our outdoor spaces shut off, we’re all trying to find creative ways to occupy our time and to clear our mind. Luckily, one Seattle-area travel company is offering a much-needed mental break to those who want to try their hand at cooking or baking something new, with a glass of wine (or limoncello) in hand.

Launching Immersive Cooking Classes

The Table Less Traveled launched in 2015, offering culturally immersive trips to Italy, Japan and Malaysia, to name a few. Much of the travel experience offered through the company focuses on bringing people together for a meal around a table and showing travelers what life is really like in other areas of the world. But with travel industry hit hard, and the importance of social distancing at the forefront of everyone’s minds, owner Annie Cheng knew it was time to get creative.

“We had a trip to Singapore and Malaysia scheduled for this time, which we postponed in February, but we wanted to find a way to still create the same sense of connection and community from a distance,” says Cheng. “We’re working with our friends around the world in a different way, creating a space for people to connect and build relationships.”

Cheng launched the first cooking classes mid-March, calling on the tour guides who help her in various countries to teach classes via Zoom. Now, there are plenty to choose from such as classes on ravioli, tiramisu and pizza over the coming weeks.

Reserving a spot for the class and logging in is simple, and the list of ingredients is sent out ahead of time so participants can be prepared. The majority of the ingredients utilized in these classes are staples one might typically have on hand anyway, so you’re able to hop on to a class without needing to leave the house.

The classes are “pay what you can,” with the proceeds split with the chefs to allow for anyone, in any situation right now, to join in the fun. You can feel good about learning a new skill while supporting those in the many industries who are out of work right now due to the current pandemic.

“We’re happy to be able to create community and to provide this experience,” Cheng says. “And we’re empowered by the people that played a role in getting this up and running, the families who are participating and our partners around the world.”

Learning to Make Lemon Cake

I had the opportunity to join in on the recent Lemon Cake Class, introducing me to a slice of the culture on Italy’s small island of Capri, while making a delectable dessert along the way. Any excuse to bake cake, right?

Hosts Domenico Arcucci and his wife Maria did an introduction to who they are and where they live, and each of the 12 class members had the opportunity to share where they’re from as well.

For the Arcuccis, the recipe they were sharing was Maria’s grandmother’s special lemon cake recipe — a recipe often incorporated into birthday celebrations in their family. The couple shared during the class that Maria’s grandmother, who is 86, was a bit perplexed to hear they were going to teach Americans how to make her cake over the internet.

The cake we made stems back to the 1920s. The Arcuccis shared that the island of Capri was quite poor during the early 1900s, so all of the recipes from that time are simple recipes with easy to obtain ingredients. And for the area in which they live, lemon trees, almond trees and orange trees are in abundance, hence their use of fresh lemon zest and almond flour in the cake. And bonus: the recipe also utilizes limoncello. (Check our DIY at-home recipe for limoncello here.)

The couple walked us through the recipe, step by step, with the opportunity to ask questions along the way if something went awry. Most participants opted to cook along, while others watched and learned to be able to bake their cake later in the day. And with fresh lemon zest and limoncello, the flavor of the end-result was simply delicious.

This was such a unique opportunity to learn from people in another country, and it was such a great way to clear my mind in the middle of the afternoon, all while connecting with others. And truthfully, an important reminder that really, we’re all in this together.

For the current (and often updating) list of classes available, visit The Table Less Traveled here.