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Cooking school event lures women and few men (video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
May 2, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.

Tracye Boyd samples a jam from Vela Farms Jellies, Jams and Marmalades during the Taste of Home event at the Victoria Community Center. The event provided many samples of food, as well as cooking lessons.

Remember the date

The National Association of Letter Carriers is hosting the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on May 11 to benefit the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent. For more details, visit victoriafoodbank.org or call 361-578-0591.

Women - and very few men - were standing patiently in a line that continued to grow Thursday afternoon.

Standing on tiptoes and peering around the people in front of them, they were ready to get to the front of the line.

The smells coming from the Gringo Salsa booth in the front of the Victoria Community Center Annex lured them in like a drum fish going after a blue crab hanging on a hook.

The Taste of Home Cooking School on Thursday served a packed house of women and men picking up various samples and signing up to win free goodies. The event was dominated by women with just a few men in the lively, sold-out crowd.

Sitting in a chair in the general admission area, Paul Nardini, of Victoria, waited for his fiancee to return to their seats in the last row.

"I got tricked," he said with a smirk. "I didn't know what to expect when we got here."

Nardini, 43, said there were a lot of companies that had food-related stuff, but there were some random things, too, including a booth that was styling hair and a furniture store.

"I guess if you're looking for a dinner table, then that makes sense," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

There were a few things that caught his eye though, he said. Describing himself as a man who likes to grill, he and fiancee Toni Fletcher, 38, of Victoria, scored a nonstick grilling mat that she showed off to another couple who went to the event with them.

"I think Victoria needs more cooking classes like this," she said. "I learned about the new stuff they have for cooking, too."

Halfway to the front of the dome where the show occurred, Rhonda Eichinger, 41, of Port Lavaca, staked out closer seats.

She had been to a Taste of Home event in Central Texas before and said the Victoria event was much larger.

"There are more booths, more samples and new stuff like the Pampered Chef and the spas," she said.

She brought her husband, Charles, 45, to the event. He said he likes to cook anything and everything and was equally impressed by all the things he saw.

"I want to learn more about healthier cooking," he said.

Healthy cooking seemed to be a popular trend at the show this year, said Randall Goode, of Bay City, who was the Crossroads' most recent participant in H-E-B's Slim Down Showdown.

"I've been coming to this for a few years," he said. "I'm always looking for new ways to cook that save time or make it easier."

The 53-year-old said he has lost about 90 pounds since September and attributes his success to eating healthier and getting up and moving around. He's careful not to use the word diet and instead uses the phrase "smart eating."

"There's some healthy choices here, and it's good to see what's out there," he said.

Goode added that he loved that the event helps the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, which partnered with H-E-B to host a food drive at the event. He brought in a few canned foods he plucked from his pantry to donate to the food bank.

"It was all food that people really eat - corn, green beans, stuff like that," Goode said.

The food bank helps the people who are genuinely in need, he said. He was glad to be able to help.

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