Spokane Journal of Business

Joanie’s Magic Spoon classes deliver comfort food

Jamison teaches cooking from Indian Trail-area home

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-—Judith Spitzer
Joan Jamison is at home in her kitchen where she teaches bread baking, pumpkin dishes and other classes in meal preparation. She says she strives to keep the classes informal and fun.

After raising two daughters, and having a successful career as an administrative assistant, Joan Jamison retired, but not for long. She decided to open Joanie’s Magic Spoon almost five years ago, teaching cooking classes from home in her dream kitchen overlooking Spokane’s Indian Trail area.

Jamison says she honed her cooking skills while raising her daughters and taking community cooking classes here and there. Years later, a friend kept telling her she should teach cooking classes because she was good at it and loved to cook for family and friends. 

She says it finally clicked.

“I thought, I can do that; I can offer that experience to people in my own style,” Jamison says.

“I always had taken lots of cooking classes when the kids were little. I learned how to do crepes in one of those. I also started making bread. I make all of our bread now,” she says. 

Today, she teaches classes in baking bread, creating unique salads, soups, appetizers using puff pastry, and several ethnic meals inspired by her mentors, as well as her mother.  

Jamison limits class size to no more than 10 students, and she says she keeps classes informal and fun. The cost per person is $45 to $50, depending on the menu. Jamison demonstrates the food preparation, interacting and answering questions while she’s making the dishes. Many of the classes are hands-on with students preparing parts of the meal as well. 

Although she declines to discuss revenue, she says she typically teaches two classes per month, but that doesn’t include private organizers that register to bring their own friends and family members to cooking classes for birthday parties, anniversaries, or just because. Her teenage granddaughter or a friend assists her with classes, she says.

“I have lots of repeat people who come back and sit up to the bar; it’s always lots of fun,” she says. “After I go through the menu, we go into the big dining room and have dinner together.” 

Dining on the fruits of the evening she calls it. 

 “You can come up with something pretty easy that looks like you spent lots of time making it,” she says.

She says she also has people who come to eat the food who have no intention of ever making the dishes on the menu. 

 “I encourage lots of interaction and I like people to ask questions. It’s important for me to keep it informal and small,” she says.

“I teach a crepe class with breakfast crepes, lunch, and dinner crepes. People sit up to the bar, and I serve the crepes as they come out of the pan,” she says. 

One of her most popular classes is her signature Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf class. The Finnish recipe is a combination of cheeses, mushrooms, and ground meat, wrapped in a flaky, sour cream pastry.

She chooses several ethnic recipes for her menus as well as the comfort foods she learned to love as she grew up. She says many people grew up with some of the same homemade dishes, but may not know how to recreate them. 

Another popular tutorial is her pie class, which she says is hands-on.

Students make three crusts and go home with a completed pie crust. “One of the three we use to prepare chicken pot pie and enjoy eating it during the evening,” Jamison says. 

The secret to the perfect pie crust, which is supposed to be flaky, light and airy, she says, is adding the water a little bit at a time. “I don’t ever measure the water. I add a little water at a time until the dough has the feel I want, she says, adding that the right feel comes with practice. “But, don’t worry about handling the dough too much.”

She says in her youth it wasn’t unusual to come home to a house smelling of fresh-baked pie.

“We’d rush into the kitchen to find out whether it was chocolate, apple, banana cream, or lemon meringue. The lemon pie was a family favorite,” Jamison says. To this day, she adds, her family celebrates birthdays with their choice of dinner and their favorite pie rather than a cake. 

Typically she makes five pies for holiday meals. She says she learned cooking basics from her mother, who was a good cook, but didn’t use much spice. 

“My mom made it. I’ve improved on it,” she says.

The first class she taught was a pumpkin class. Jamison usually teaches it in the fall and includes squash somewhere on the menu. She teaches people how to clean and process pumpkin, and then make a classic pumpkin soup, a pumpkin pie, and maybe a savory butternut squash and sausage pasta, she says. “Pumpkin and squash are high in nutrients and are versatile in their uses,” she says. 

 “Nothing can compare to a homemade pumpkin pie,” she says. “If you haven’t had pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin, you have never had a true pumpkin pie.”

She says she also instructs people on the basics of making salad dressings.  “You can do all kinds of things with those,” she adds. 

Jamison also teaches specialty cooking around different holidays. Before the Christmas holidays, she offers a class on how to bake breads. The menu for the breads class includes a braided French bread, holiday bread shaped into a candy cane stuffed with candied fruits and nuts, and as sunflower bread that she says is, “well-loved.” She adds a quick pizza dough lesson, and homemade soup rounds out the class and the dinner afterward.

  Other classes she offers are a Tour of Italy class and an appetizer class, which includes a classic hummus recipe. She adds that the hummus dip one of the tastiest, healthiest and easiest dips to make, and since it’s a classic recipe, she includes different ingredients to create countless variations. 

The appetizer class menu includes dishes that are easy to prepare, with some that can be made ahead as well as hot appetizers. 

Typically in the spring, Jamison teaches a class called Endless Salads that includes a Sicilian Harvest Salad, a Quinoa Salad Southwestern Style, Spinach and Portobello Mushrooms Sautéed in Truffle Oil, and a Marinated Three Tomato Salad. She warns her students that green leaves are not the main ingredients of any of the salads.

Jamison loves nothing better than cooking for family and friends. 

“I want to do it all myself,” she says. “It’s a gift I can share with my family. When we all sit down, I think … I’ve created this with love, and I’m so proud to be able to share this with you.” She prepares most holiday meals by herself for the most part, and she likes it that way. 

She says the family is just happy to come over and eat.

Judith  Spitzer
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Reporter Judith Spitzer covers technology, mining, agriculture, and wood products for the Journal. A vintage-obsessed antique collector in her off hours, Judith worked as a journalist in Colorado and Oregon before joining the Journal.

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