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We Didn’t Socially Distance in 2020 (We Physically Distanced)

Like millions of people around the world trying to prevent catching (or spreading) a deadly virus, we stayed at home and began “socially distancing.” Truth be told, I don’t like the phrase “socially distanced,” because we were anything but. More accurately, we were “physically distanced” but remained quite social — albeit online. 

There were many disappointments this year — some more profound than others, such as not being able to be with my mother as she died in her nursing home — though, being the resourceful human beings we are, we pivoted and made the best of a terrible situation.


2020 was the year I turned 50, and while our plans for a large party were thwarted, I’m so grateful we had some celebrations before lock-down.

  1. I had already organized a “girls’ dinner” at Millennium on March 6th.

2. On March 7th and 8th (my actual birthday), David and I drove up to Sonoma county to spend a couple days with old friends.


3. On March 10th, I enjoyed a fabulous dinner with a couple girlfriends at Wildseed, one of San Francisco’s newest and loveliest restaurants. 

That was the last dinner I had in a restaurant. 

While our lofty plans for a catered lunch for 30 friends in Jack London State Park were canceled, we shifted to a brief online gathering — which of course was capped by everyone’s animals making an appearance. 

And that was the beginning of Zoom dinners, drinks, and happy hours — for which I am very grateful. I know many people were Zoom-fatigued because their jobs require them to be engaged and online for meetings and check-ins, but I’m just grateful there have been so many ways for us to stay connected. While virtual calls are far from ideal, they have been life-savers. 


  • When we scheduled Zoom dinners with friends near and far, sometimes we made an effort to make or order in the same recipes / dishes — just to trick ourselves into feeling like we were at the same table.
  • For some dinners, first we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in one room, then moved to the dining room table for dinner. It just broke things up a bit and made it feel more legit. 



  • HAPPY HOURS: We have a very social neighborhood and used to enjoy outdoor happy hours on a monthly (sometimes bi-weekly) basis. While 2020 quashed the in-person socials, I started hosting weekly online happy hours, including for 4th of July. (Once the weather was beautiful and it was clear we could meet masked and distanced, these slowed down.)


  • SCOTCH CLUB: Our neighborhood Scotch club was supposed to meet the weekend of March 17th, but that was the same weekend California went into lock-down, so we moved it online. It wasn’t the same as sharing our favorite bottles of Scotch with each other, but we still shared stories. Several months later, I hosted another virtual Scotch club and dropped off chocolate truffles to all the attendees so we at least ate the same treats together while we drank.

  • WINE TASTING: While drinking together on Zoom was a fairly easy way to connect, on one occasion — to make things a little more special and also to support one of our favorite sustainable wineries — we surprised some friends by having wine delivered to their homes and arranging for a wine tasting with the winery itself. 


  • We connected with friends from high school we haven’t seen in years and have other meet-ups scheduled. With all of our 2020 travel plans (that got postponed), we had no plans to see these friends at all. The pandemic inspired us to connect.

  • We even attended a Zoom wedding, which had hundreds of people from around the world. It was actually quite beautiful and moving. 

  • We had holiday parties to cap off the year and made it cozy and pretty with Christmas decorations and a glowing fireplace.

  • And of course, we loved seeing our friends’ animals, most of whom made appearances. (I have also had weekly meetings with a wildlife rescue group —the best of which include appearances of the rescued animals!)

While there is hope that things will get better in 2021, we expect to have many more Zoom dinners. When I think of the alternative, I’m grateful for this digital option. 


Each cooking class is fully interactive. While I am demonstrating, you can chime in with comments, questions, and ooohs and ahhhs the entire time. Not only does this increase connection among the students, both my assistant and I see your questions and make sure we answer all of them.
You can participate in the class using Zoom on your computer, tablet or mobile device.
Upon completing your registration, you receive your confirmation email, which includes the link to our Zoom class, along with information and recipes. Each class is officially a go once a minimum number of slots are filled — at which time the recipes appear on the document. My goal is to have the recipes available to you at least 5 days before the class to give you enough time to order / shop for ingredients, should you choose to cook along.
While I love to see the faces of my students, the use of video during the live class is optional. NOTE: Even if you opt to show your video, for the class recordings, which go out to the general public as on-demand classes, NO ONE'S video is shown except for mine.
We do our best to prepare you in advance so you are ready for when the class begins. If you have issues during the class, my assistant is there to help you. Sometimes it's an issue on the user side, and when there's an issue on my side, we do our best to mitigate it right away. One of the benefits of live classes is that they're in real time, which means it's a live feed. Sometimes technical issues are out of our control, but so far, we've never had any real issues that took away from the purpose of the class.
Absolutely! Unless something goes horribly wrong (and it rarely does), each class is recorded, and students receive the class recording within 2 days of the live class.
While I do send a reminder email out a couple days before our class, I encourage you to add the class to your calendar as soon as you register.
Some students love being able to cook along; some students love to just watch. It is entirely up to you how you want to enjoy the class.
You can decide in advance which dishes you want to cook along with. You might choose to cook along for just one of the dishes or all of them. Whatever you decide, I suggest you have your mise en place all ready. That is to say, have all the ingredients measured and prepped as much as possible. (Mise en place is a French culinary phrase meaning "everything in its place.”)
Ultimately, what we take away is based on what we give, so I encourage you to be present and engaged in the class. But, for my part, if you know me, you know I'm pretty passionate about many things, and I can’t help bringing my love of food, history, language, animals, film, literature, and food lore to each class. My aim is that you walk away with a richer understanding of food, cooking, and eating than before you arrived. More than that, you will get helpful step-by-step instructions about each dish I'm demonstrating and a clear up-close view of all the ingredients and procedures. The best part is that I, too, make mistakes, and you see me make them live in real time. That's how we learn the most.
I'm thrilled to say that many students are regulars and repeats, and you will no doubt get to know some fabulous people when you attend these classes. I encourage engagement and follow-up, including posting photos, questions, and comments on our private Facebook page. Many friends and family members join from different cities, then share a virtual meal with each other once the class is over. (That makes my heart sing.) So, yes, despite being online the classes foster connection.
I have found that 60 minutes is the ideal amount of time to spend in a virtual class. Sometimes we stick around a little longer to finish something up or to enjoy a bonus cocktail by our resident mixologist (my adorable husband), but we like to honor your time and keep the classes to 60 minutes. (Some special / holiday classes are scheduled for 90 minutes, but they’re the exception.) If we go over and you need to drop off, you can always view the video later.
Absolutely! Once you are registered and the class is a go, you are officially enrolled. That means the recipes, resources, video recording, and even the chat transcript are yours to enjoy. You will receive a follow-up email whether you are in the live class or not.
Because the value of the classes includes exclusive recipes and resources as well as the live class / video recording, once a class is officially a go and you get access to the recipes, you cannot be refunded. However, if the class does not meet the minimum sign-up threshold and I cancel the class, you have the option of getting a full refund or switching to a different class. (This is one of the reasons I don't share the recipes until I know we've reached the minimum threshold.)
After the live class is over and enjoyed by students in real time, each class gets converted into an on-demand class so that others may enjoy the recipes, resources, and video recording. Most live classes become on-demand classes within 2 days.
No animal products are ever used in my recipes, so yes, all the classes are vegan / plant-based, which means nothing that comes out of or off of an animal. I've written three cookbooks (The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, and Color Me Vegan), and two lifestyle books (Vegan’s Daily Companion and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge), which also include recipes. I'm also always testing and developing new recipes (as well as modifying and perfecting old ones) to make sure students get the best, clearest, easiest-to-follow recipes — qualities that have become trademark in my work.
While living compassionately and consciously is not about being perfect, and while some students may not have access to the same bulk stores and package-free ingredients as me, I make an effort in my classes to use (and promote) as little packaging and plastic as possible, which is why so many of my recipes and menus are for how to cook and bake homemade and from-scratch!
My classes span a huge range, and your suggestions are always welcome: *Different types of cuisines (Italian, Thai, Asian, Mexican, etc.) *Particular ways of cooking and eating (Quick & Easy, Oil-free, By Color/Phytochemicals, ) *Cooking with specific appliances (Air-Fryer, Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker / Crockpot, etc.) *Homemade from scratch (Seitan, Tempeh, Tofu, Miso, Nut Cheeses, Nut Butters, etc.) *Various holidays and seasons (Mother’s Day, Easter, Passover, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Summer, Fall, etc.) *Focused on meals (Packed Lunches, Breakfast, Brunch, Fancy Dinner, Quick Dinner, etc.) *Cooking with specific foods/ ingredients (Aquafaba, Beans, Spices & Herbs, Greens, Lentils, Grains, etc. *Baking from scratch (Pizza Dough, Breads, Pretzels, Bagels, and Biscuits, Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, etc.) *And everything in between.
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