By Karen Billing
At Torrey Pines High School, the learning continues long after the last bell tolls. On any given night, the San Dieguito Adult School uses the facility on most nights for adults looking to better themselves and learn a variety of subjects — there’s Chinese in one room, Italian in the next, Spanish and French down the hall. Lately, the home economics classroom has been the home for people learning about the Indian culture through its food with classes taught by Carmel Valley resident Ritu Singla.
Singla had always loved teaching and used to teach children in her native India. She wanted to be a part of the San Dieguito Adult School after taking a few classes there to try different things and meet new people. Singla saw quickly that there was no Indian cooking class in the program.
“All my friends kept telling me they’d love to learn to cook Indian food,” said Singla, thinking that the class might make a good addition to the program.
Singla, who works in real estate, doesn’t have a cooking background, save for cooking for her family for the last 10 years. Singla has only lived in the United States for nine years and has recipes from both sides of her family — her brother is even a chef.
“When Ritu walked in my door I was ecstatic because people are really interested in Indian cooking,” said adult school Principal Denise Stanley.
Singla started teaching her class in January and her January and February classes both had waiting lists.
“I didn’t know that I would get such a good response,” Singla said.
She loves that people are so interested in learning about her culture and food. The class is also popular for vegetarians as most of India is vegetarian — the class helps spice up their menus.
In the two three-hour classes, students cook in groups, gathering ingredients and all take part in prep work. They learn to cook four to five dishes and then eat the food together at the end.
Last week, the class learned how to make samosas, lentil soup, palak paneer (a spinach and cheese dish) and chai Indian tea.
“People always say they come back to the San Dieguito Adult School’s cooking classes because they’re hands-on classes and you actually get to make things rather than just watch a demonstration,” Stanley said.
The experience has been rewarding for Singla.
“It allows me to do something related to cooking, de-stress and have a good time with people,” Singla said. “My students are all so fun and so interested in learning about Indian food and the different spices.”
The San Dieguito Adult School has been around for over 50 years, starting at Earl Warren Middle School as just English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. The school’s programs have grown tremendously over the years, utilizing the different campuses throughout the district, as well as partnering with the city of Solana Beach’s facilities and at Carmel Valley’s library, recreation center and other schools.
There are 30 locations in all, offering classes in everything imaginable from art to mortgage and finance. The classes available include a class on preparing to climb Mt. Whitney to one on building a greenhouse.
The school offers classes for people from preschool age on up to age 92 — last year a 92-year-old came back to earn his high school diploma. A high number of people take the school’s classes, especially seniors and those enrolled in the ESL program.
“I always call it a vibrant community of adults,” said Stanley, who has been principal of the school for the last 12 years. “This community is very active in adult education, in putting themselves out there to keep on learning…The more you keep going and learning, the better off you’ll be.”
A brochure for the spring term should be arriving in mailboxes soon and the first day of registration for the spring term is March 9. Register online at
- To register for the March Indian cooking classes with Ritu Singla, call (760) 753-7073.