One of the perks of being in a cuisine class is that you have the opportunity to learn about the anthropology of food. Our professor (would they call him a professor here?), Sergio is a big foodie. He said outright in our first class, that he wasn’t a chef, that he was a food anthropologist. I’d say that’s a pretty good way to lose half our audience on the first day of class. I heard from some of the returning students that the class was terrible and no one should take it because we don’t cook enough. Seemed like a poor excuse to drop the class to me.
By now, it should be evident that I love food, the origins of food and the construction and combinations of different ingredients and plates. The first day Sergio spoke to us about pasta, you know, who made the first batch of penne and all. As an aside, I’ll never understand why penne pasta is put on such a high pedestal compared to other types of pasta anyway. If you’re buying it dry, it costs the same as farfalle, which I think looks more appealing. Plus its great to make a pasta salad with. Anyway, fathom a guess as to where pasta came from. If you guessed China, you’re right! Isn’t that weird? The things you learn in Italian Cuisine and the Mediterranean Diet…
Back to the cooking lesson, I might preface this by saying that it was incredibly amusing to watch fifteen other kids with minimal culinary experience take to the kitchen with a full-body apron and sailor hat, expecting to walk out of the class with a degree in culinary arts. Like one class makes you a chef or something. I’ve been cooking for seven years and I don’t know an eighth of all the food combinations or techniques to call myself a chef. This stuff takes time.
Arriving at the Boscolo Culinary Academy, I was ready to dust off my latex gloves and peel those eggplants that Giuseppe, the crazy Italian chef who kept calling me Luigi, needed for the eggplant purée. Over the course of the day, our group prepared four dishes. The first is called, Fonduta di melanzana allo zenzero, which we served over gnocchi. Gnocchi is apparently everyone’s favorite pasta. Amazing how one dish can sway the opinion of so many people.
The second dish we created on is called, Sformato di patate e funghi con crema di finocchi all’anice, which turned out almost like a mushroom souflè. We baked them in greased aluminum foil cups sprinkled with breadcrumbs.
The third dish we prepared is called, Strudel di patate dolci e porri, crema di zucca all’amaretto, a zucchini based strudel nestled over a zucchini purée. The purée was a brilliant green.
Lastly, we worked on a dish called Sorbetto di sedano alla liquirizia, olio e fior di sale, a celery-based sorbet that was something you might see on Iron Chef America. The final presentation, assembled by Giuseppe, looked neat. Nothing that I hadn’t seen before, but it was definitely an incredible display.
Journey through Tuscania
When the class ended, I escaped into the maze of a medieval city that is Tuscania to find a couple of gems. We stopped at a Basilica, it was the Basilica di San Pietro, not to be confused with the great Basilica in the Vatican. There is a beautiful green courtyard that that gives way to a beautifully decorated church. Walking inside I noticed pillars of Roman and Etruscan influence.
There was a crypt, below the church, which seems to be the trend in Italy. In the room adjacent to the crypt, a small opening was barred off. I used the flash on my camera to light the way into this tunnel. I suspected that it runs underneath the church itself. Being the risk-taker that I am, I decided to strip away my extra layers and try to slide through the bars. Unfortunately, my body wasn’t having any of it and I was forced to retreat back upstairs to the cathedral.
Another gorgeous part of Tuscania was the fountain that sits atop a hill overlooking the gigantic gorge. It had me thinking about how Simba was trapped in the gorge the day Mufasa died in the movie, The Lion King. I snapped a couple fantastic shots and really got a nice look of the city.
As luck would have it, we missed our bus back to Viterbo and had three hours to kill. While the entire group went back to the Café inside the walls, I used the time to walk around the city inside and outside the wall. I saw some local shops, a much quieter Cafè, and many apartments.
Living inside the wall in any of these cities in Italy is magical. Just walking on the cobblestones is mind-blowing because I’m so used to asphalt roads. Outside of the wall wasn’t anything too great. Just local shops and Pizzeria shops. The only highlight of walking outside the wall, if I could even call it a highlight, was being stopped by the carabinieri, the military police who like to hassle anyone and everyone. They damn near made me miss the group bus back to Viterbo after they had me cornered in an alley for about 10 minutes.
What a crazy first day at Boscolo Academy and in Tuscania, we have three more sessions at the academy to look forward to over the next three months.