Friday, May 23, 2008

Week 8 Finds Me Back in New York on Holiday

Buon giorno!

This last Travelogue of 2007 is coming straight to you from my cozy house in Port Chester! I’m excited to tell you that I’m home for the holidays. Senore Cocoa is sitting here with me trying to catch the curser on my lap top. (It’s one of the funny things he does while he watches the monitor as I type!) Larry is making me a yummy Marie Calendar pot pie. (Mainly because the cupboard is totally bare!)

This was a very weird week for me. On Sunday night when I got home from a short trek to Parma I had a full fledged cold. Chills, fever, congestion – you name it! I very rarely get sick, but when I do, it’s awful. I woke up Monday determined to get through school this week. The regions we studied have strong Greek influences, and I just didn’t want to miss a minute of it!

Monday we had a great guest chef from Pulia. If you are looking at the Italian”boot” it’s the region that stretches to the “heel.” The chef was a woman and her dishes were just beautiful. I’m including a picture of one of her antipasti. It’s a small ball of burrata rolled in kataifi, and quickly browned in the oven. (Kataifi – a Greek product- is actually filo dough that is shredded.) The cheese is kind of mozzarella, except when you cut in to it the center is creamy and soft. She served it with a black olive tapenade and sundried tomatoes. Bellisimo!! I managed to get through the day until about 4:00 and then I was done. I just had to go home and get in to bed.

On Tuesday the class cooked, but not me – I was down for the count the entire day. I could barely move. You can just imagine how incredibly unhappy I was!!

Wednesday I was feeling a bit better and got myself in to see the guest chef from Calabria. (Calabria is the region that is the “toe” of the boot.) His cuisine was hot, hot, hot … hot peppers of all kinds, very good for clearing my stuffy nose! Late in the afternoon Gualtiero Marchesi, the founder of the school, stopped by and took a picture with us.

Yesterday we traveled by bus to one of Marchesi’s restaurants outside of Milan. For me it ended up being a tiny bit disappointing. We arrived and went on a brief tour of restaurant and kitchen. We were offered a glass of champagne, and were encouraged to ask him questions. After about 30 minutes, in a very warm room, most of us were ready to go. We were all hungry, and realized we were not going to be eating anytime soon. As I said, it was a bit disappointing, only because I’m studying at his school – and didn’t get to taste a thing from his restaurant. You should know that Italians revere him. He has, to his credit, elevated Italian cuisine to a beautiful, high level; but in the process (I think) made it attainable to only a few. His philosophy is certainly not for all, and he states that in his book. I was reminded of one of the final comments my chefs in NY told us- “it’s not going to be the same in Italy, you may not always agree with everything, but you can learn something from everyone.” Good advice for almost anything in life!

I’m so glad to be home and hopefully able to connect with you all either in person or by phone. It’s been a crazy, intense eight weeks. At times it’s seemed to have gone miserably slow – but now I’m feeling like it was fast. When I get back in January I will have my last week of classes at ALMA, studying Sicily and Sardenia. Then off to my stage. Unfortunately the chef in Molise was not able to sort out accommodations for me, and the restaurant in Lucca had the same problem.

I am excited to share where I will be going. It’s a restaurant in the Abruzzo region called Ristorante Reale. ( I’m so excited about going there. Abruzzo is the region where Larry’s maternal grandparents are from. I feel in some way this is a connection with my personal journey. You all know that I have always loved to cook. My inspiration to learn to cook Italian was simply from him. When we first started dating he talked a lot about his two grandmother’s, and things they made him as a kid. I was simply inspired to cook those things for him. For me, that is what it’s all about – cooking for people as a way to touch them in some way.

Finding and participating in this culinary journey has not been easy. The past two years have been emotionally difficult for both of us. Losing our precious creation, searching for another that is not to be … I’ve been trying to find some kind of balance, with the support of a wonderful man. Can you imagine anyone else letting me go on this crazy journey? My culinary path is becoming clearer to me as the days pass.

So I’m signing off – just for now. I’ll be back “travelogue-ing” in a few weeks. Enjoy the holidays, your families – and most of all … enjoy your food … savor it all!!

Buona Feste!

No comments: