First Day of Cooking School
Well, it is now the fourth day of cooking school, and I am just getting around to writing in the blog about the first day of school. They keep us busy here from early morning to late at night. Mostly in EATING. Yes I am learning quite a bit about Italian cooking - which I am coming to find out is as much about selecting the correct ingredients and enjoying a fine meal as it is about cooking. The Italians are very passionate about their food. More than five hours every day is devoted to meals. This explains why I am having to play late night catch up on the blog.
Oddly enough with all this attention on eating, my pants are getting looser, while many of my classmates are having the opposite problem. WOW what does that say about my eating habits at home? A big part of the Italian cooking class is also learning how to consume wine with every meal and not get too inebriated. I unfortunately am allergic to alcohol. So while most of my classmates are getting a good number of calories from the wine, I am just doing the tasting meals. Which is lots of little portions. And lots of time in between. Slow eating, over a couple of hours, small quantities of food and LOTS of walking in between time. That explains it all.
Overall the experience with Academia Barilla in Parma has been fantastic. My classmates are primarily woman - most over 40. Two brought their husbands. The rest came with friends or solo. It’s a group of woman who love to cook and have a great time. The laughter has been non-stop. What I love even more about it - I am NOT IN CHARGE. If there is a problem, it is someone else’s to solve. (I did have to get one of my classmate’s computers to work on the internet - but as a volunteer it didn’t matter if I succeeded at that or not).
We spent the first day in a lecture where we learned about the quality certifications on the foods produced in Parma and how to distinguish the real thing from the fakes produced all over the world. Very insightful education. Sounds like the food industry has the same problems the Project Management industry has with people presenting knock offs as just as good as the real thing (non-certified PMs vs. PMPs). Then we went to their incredible kitchen classroom. We were in groups of four working on the recipes for a five course meal. For every two groups, we had a dedicated chef to help us. One of the woman in our group was trained at Cordon Bleu (what she was doing in this class for untrained folks was beyond me). I learned “knife” skills the first day. by our in group “expert.” The Academia Barilla chef, Nicola, seemed fine with my knife skills but taught me some techniques if I wanted to try something new. I preferred his approach. After almost 40 years of cooking, I wasn’t doing everything wrong with the knife. I learned more about group interaction styles and what approaches work well in a team and what don’t more than I learned about knife skills from our group’s self proclaimed expert.
One of the other woman taught me how she chops up rosemary - never really had given much thought to how I chopped up rosemary or that it even needed to be chopped. But then she explained all the different ways she used chopped rosemary with cooking her own beef as well. We became good friends fast - a fellow cattle woman. Now we’re exchanging stories on installing windmills. Maybe we woman who love to cook and are willing to travel to Italy to learn more, have more in common than we realize. And since I am not the teacher in this group - I am allowed to have favorites. Mary Jimmy is one of my favorites - she is an emergency room nurse. If I ever find myself in need of an emergency room nurse near the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee, I will be in good hands at her hospital. I think we need to write the definitive guide to cooking an entire cow.
I’ve made lots of other friends in class as well. An elegant woman who on a wing and a prayer made a dramatic life change to follow her heart and start her life over in San Diego - she was as beautiful as she was gutsy. Another was a recently widowed full of life woman from LA. And then there was the truffle loving veterinarian who took copius notes. I became fast friends with “Mom and Dad” - a recently liberated couple who sold their chain of hotels. And by the end of the week was discussing entreprenurial opportunities with this spit fire mom-preneur from Georgia who was on the trip with her Mom. I also got to know two wonderful employees from Sur La Table (good move sending those two to this class). When we reconnect with each other back in the states - at least we know we can all cook.
I’ll write more tomorrow - it’s almost 1 AM and we’re taking a boat to some island to try out various olive oils tomorrow.