I often find myself sitting outside on our patio under the sun reflecting back on the week. This week is no exception. If I were to sum up all of our experiences this past week into writing, the blog would go on for an eternity.
So I will just give you a slice. This week we threw ourselves into the Italian culture. More importantly the food. The Italians consider cooking to be an art. The cook is the conductor and each ingredient an instrument. Individually wonderful but together creates a symphony of flavour. Each dish is its own magical experience. We learned how food should properly be prepared and served. Of course we also went to some churches and saw some art.
Pasta is almost always over cooked. Except when you’re in Italy or when Gabbi is cooking. When pasta is properly cooked it retains some form and stiffness. Al Dente. We quickly learned to look for this in our dishes. Being able to feel if the food is correctly cooked is the first step to properly assessing the dish. Then you begin to develop a feel for freshness.
Our first meal on the road, in Nice, was an experience for everyone. Being 100 yards from the ocean the clams and scallops that some of the group ordered were as fresh as it comes. However there was an average of two scallops served per dish and the clam pasta was rather bland, causing disappointment. After the mediocre meal we had gelato that was out of this world. I truly mean it was an incredible piece of food. The two favourite flavours of the group were cactus (very fresh, a combination of mint and camomile) and mojito.
Our first day in a new city is always a whirlwind. It was no different in Milan. After throwing our bags in the hotel after a five hour train ride we practically sprinted to the Duomo in Milan. After spending time in the cathedral we hiked to the top of it. The view was breathtaking. The loud obnoxious Italian school children were not. However we didn’t let that bother us and soaked up everything that the cathedral had to offer. After some free time we headed out to dinner.
Fish markets on the way...
At “La Fabbrica” we were able to see the pizzas being made from where we sat that night. It was delicious. The fresh arugula on top of bubbling mozzarella had my mouth watering, even though the dish wasn’t even mine. I distinctly remember biting into my pasta and there was a perfect combination of fresh cherry tomato and basil. Like I said, it is an art.
Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus 1606
We got our dose of art the next day in the Brera Museum after a brief visit to Castello Sforza. The museum is also home to an art school and we all enjoyed being surrounded by other art students who were also working in sketch books. Afterwards, our lives changed.
We were visited by a Saint. Santo Giovani, our chef. We will never be the same after visiting the restaurant: “Jumping”. Everyone’s plate was clean after that meal. My pasta tasted as if it had been blessed. Every noodle was fresh and prepared perfectly. The cherry tomatoes tasted like they had been picked just minutes before appearing on my plate. Fifi told me her lasagna was so good there wasn’t a word to describe it. Gabbi cried. Carl ate in silence. We were worshipers. The meal was truly a master piece. The next day we were off for Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance.
The Duomo of Florence
Ghilberti's doors. Michelangelo later would call them the "Gates of Pardise".
Carl getting it done as usual.
The Santa Maria delle Grazie. In this beautiful church are buried Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo among others.
The tomb of the great Michelangelo.
Florence, it was a twelve hour running tour. The highlights were the Duomo, the leather market and Michelangelo’s statue of David. I don’t even remember the meal, everything paled in comparison to Santo Giovani. The next day was our solos and some result in our Carnet's du Voyage.
Jen's Carnet du Voyage
Gabbi's finished leather cover
Our solo days were, as always, an experience. Everyone brought back new wisdom and stories to the group. Remarkably, none of us ran into each other even though we were all in the same spots in the city throughout the day. For our final meal in Italy we decided to go back to Jumping. When they saw us coming I’m not sure if they were excited or thinking “oh boy... the Americans are back”. We had a wonderful final meal.
European Art Classroom ate its way through Italy. To be honest, that’s the only way to do Italy.
Now we are home in Aix and going through a carb detox before our trip to Denmark next week. During our Sunday night dinner we opened our arms and house to Danielle. She was a French teacher in the old Proctor in France program and still a close friend of Dave and Jen. I was lucky enough to meet her when I was younger and enjoyed reconnecting. It’s incredible how far the arms of Proctor reach. Until next time, Ciao.