LEWISTON – Hundreds of people waited in line for more than an hour Tuesday, huddling in front of Lewiston Middle School as they jockeyed for positions that would get them close to the stage inside.

The better to see the food. And savor the aromas.

“You can smell the good food,” said Tammy Lilley of Turner, who arrived with Kathy Weeks of Buckfield almost three hours before the live cooking show.

Large TVs would illustrate each move the cook made. A mirror – positioned above the table on the stage – would reflect each stir of her spoon.

For Lilley and Weeks, that wasn’t enough.

“I want to see how they do it,” Lilley said. “Up close”

They do it well. The live cooking class – demonstrating recipes found in Taste of Home magazine – has become an annual ritual for local food lovers. About 1,000 people attend.

For eight years, the magazine has been putting on the event at the school, sending a cook to demonstrate some of its characteristically practical recipes.

“That’s what I love about the magazine,” said Connie Ouellette of Lewiston, who has attended the past several years. “These are family recipes with regular ingredients. It’s something you already have in your pantry. And it’s not going to cost you a fortune.”

On the stage, Kate Gabrielle of Taste of Home prepared to demonstrate a dozen recipes, beginning with German chocolate coconut bars.

“Let’s get cooking,” she announced, beginning the show.

There were no special ingredients in her first confection, except for a special swirling mix of chocolate chips, which included white chocolate.

“They’re fabulous,” said Gabrielle, a petite woman from Pennsylvania. “Especially on ice cream. I know. I’ve tried it.”

The stage kitchen, with a baking pan illuminated on the screens, was surrounded by flowers and bags of groceries.

All would be given away, along with serving bowls, a microwave, a spice rack and several other kitchen tools.

It’s one of the draws for the people who keep coming back.

“I win something every time I come,” said Ouellette, who brought her sister-in-law, Pat Allard.

The show also helps people who never attend. Proceeds go to the Salvation Army. Most years, it totals between $2,000 and $2,500.

Capt. John Bennett, who directs the charity’s Lewiston chapter, said its effect is felt even stronger for the people he can reach through the event, which is the kick-off for the holiday fund-raising season.

“I have the chance to make face-to-face contact with people,” Bennett said. “I can ask for their help.”


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