I am finishing my stay in Florence by taking an all-day cooking class – I am excited to learn how to make some of the amazing foods that I have been eating for the past two weeks. Class begins at 10am, so I wound my way to a café for a nice warm latte and a ciambella (my new favorite, if you hadn’t noticed). It was 43-degrees when I awoke this morning, so I was in search of somewhere I could warm up! I have been spoiled by all the extended summer weather here, amongst other things, I know. Let me just say that this was indeed one of my favorite activities I have participated in thus far on my adventure. I want to jump up and down and squeal like a schoolgirl with glee when I think about how much FUN the class was! You will all be happy to know that I intend to return and attempt to share some of what I learned, too – we are going to have a PASTA PARTY – are you stoked or what, people?!
I had my doubts at first because the Chef, who would be leading us through the basics of Italian cuisine, showed up a tad late and a bit hungover this morning and a lot bitchy. He had not made it on my good side as he made a beeline through the crowded streets to the market because he left most of the students in the dust – good job, dude, lose your class in the first 15-minutes of the day. But then we arrived at the market – oooohhhh, the market – how beautiful it was, just bursting with locally grown and made foods, wines, oils, and bottles of vinegar. The smells from the bakers, the butchers, and the candlestick makers (true story) permeated the Mercato Centrale. I walked around hypnotized by the delectable treats of dried herbs, porcini mushrooms, and black truffle marinades. Seriously, I can die a happy woman if I never were to leave this place again – we have NOTHING like it in the States, NOTHING, don’t even try to one-up them, the Firezians know food, and they appreciate quality food over quantity. Everything is pure, organic, locally grown, homemade, fresh, and fantastic. We did our shopping here for the meal we would prepare later that afternoon, but first, we stopped for a tasting of balsamic vinegar and olive oils.
We must all throw out every single bottle of balsamic vinegar we get in the States because it is crap made with sugar and caramel and not authentic. There is one area in Italy that grows the proper grapes for true balsamic vinegar because the soil is just right, and there is a HUGE difference between what we get in any store in America, and the $100/bottle a little dab will do you bursting with flavor stuff you get here. Same with olive oil – I have tasted several different varieties from Tuscany now, and each one is different. The soil, the types of trees and flowers that grow in the area make a difference in how the olive trees are grown and pollinated, each one producing its own unique, signature flavor. My stomach was now knocking on heaven’s door with gusto.
When it was time to leave the market, the Chef (Giovanni is his name…..seriously) had to pick me up off of the floor because I pitched such a fit about leaving this wonderful place, which didn’t really put him in any better of a mood by the time we got to his kitchen. I was definitely not making any friends and figured I better shape up if I wanted to learn anything this afternoon. So I got it together and put on my apron. The rest of the afternoon, Giovanni showed us how to prepare bruschetta (not bruschetta as we say in American), HOMEMADE pasta with meat sauce (not Bolognese because that takes 2-3 hours to simmer, Giovanni corrected us), and heavenly Tiramisu. I have written down the “recipes” he gave us, but since he and I cook in a similar fashion where nothing is exact, and more by feel than amount, I quickly got back on his good side – whew! We prepared all of this while drinking wine, as proper Italian chefs do. Once I got past hating the arrogant New Yorkers who showed up and acted like they know everything about food and the world because they really do believe they are at the center of the Universe, it was an exquisite afternoon.
Note to tourists: this is how you do NOT behave when touring in another country….Tell the Chef how he should or should not prepare a dish, question his recipe selection, begin to think New York has better Italian Food than ITALY, or scold him for using raw eggs! STFU already! Every other country in the world serves raw eggs; most don’t refrigerate their eggs. It is just us pansy-ass North Americans, Canada included, who freak out over raw eggs – suck it up already or leave the class – Bhaaa!
I was not only full of pasta, cheese, and cream when I left the class, but with visions of you, my friends, and me together in the kitchen making homemade pasta, drinking wine, and sharing stories. It filled me with joy and love for each of you to think that soon I will subject you to all of my nonsense, and you will happily oblige me because there is Tiramisu for dessert. It was the most perfect ending to a charming visit.