SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Someone once said that nothing brings people together like food, maybe because conversations seem to flow effortlessly around dinner tables and memories are shared. Also, friendships blossom and family ties strengthen. And honestly, who doesn't love to eat'

Recently, nine family members brought their appetites for food and friendship to the Kalakaua Community Center, here, for a lesson in cooking and coping.

The Army Community Service (ACS) class, entitled "Everything You Wanted to Know About Cooking and Coping but Were Afraid to Ask," is offered to spouses of deployed Soldiers to teach the basics of cooking and create an atmosphere of support.

"Our goal is to bring people together to support each other during this deployment while giving them some great ideas on cooking and budgeting for meals," said Bernadette Wong, social service specialist, education and prevention, ACS.

The smell of garlic welcomed the spouses as they watched Wong prepare chicken fettuccini alfredo from scratch with ingredients donated by United Service Organizations (USO). Homemade salad dressing and garlic bread followed.

In the 20 minutes it took to create a meal for six, participants learned the secrets to freshness, flavoring and efficiency. Shopping on a budget was also discussed.

"The program is designed to showcase great meals that can be purchased for under $20," said Wong. "All of our recipes are economical."

With five children at home, family member Tiara Perezsilerio is always looking for new innovative ways to stretch meals.

"There are a lot of helpful tips provided," said Perezsilerio, who has a lot of mouths to feed and always shops with a budget in mind.

Although Perezsilerio does a majority of the cooking herself, dinnertime is a family affair.

"My husband told me he could cook, but I've never seen it," said Perezsilerio, joking. "But when dinner is ready and on the table, we all come together as a family."

"It's our time," added Perezsilerio.

The alfredo continued to simmer on the stove as family members moved on to the coping section of the class.

Volunteer Beth Watts, ACS, discussed budgeting, focusing on food and how to save money at the grocery store.

"It's not how much money you make, it's how you budget," said Watts.

Watts explained ways to plan ahead and live comfortably without going into debt.

Spouses asked questions and offered advice to each other.

The six-week course will feature a new recipe and topic of discussion each week. In coming weeks, spouses will tackle beef stroganoff, blackened chicken and an island favorite - Kalua pig. Additionally, subject matter experts will discuss stress management, coping skills and nutrition.

The brief ended and spouses gathered around a table to taste the meal. Almost immediately, family members engaged each other in conversation and friendships were made.

For more information on the cooking and coping class, contact ACS at 808-655-1670.