Day 4 of two weeks at an Italian school in Lucca. After class, we had an excursion to a farmhouse where we had a cooking class and lots of wine!
I’d like to preface this post by saying that as I’m writing this I’m sitting on a bench on Lucca’s walls after eating a chocolate filled cream puff to celebrate having successfully discussed the time tables for the bus to Barga with the lady at the bus station and then ordered the tickets. Bravissimo!
Thursday’s lesson was focused on Italian sayings and proverbs and also on reviewing the use of the conditional tense. For a large part of the class, we were split up into two ‘teams’ and we had to answer the responses for several situations such as “it’s your father’s birthday” (Buon Compleanno), “your daughter just passed a difficult exam” (bravissima!), “you need someone to move out of your way so you can exit the bus” (promesso?), etc. One of the sayings many people learn in Italian is “In boco di lupo” which is the english equivalent of “break a leg”. Your response should be “crepi”. Another one I liked was “buona notte e sogni d’oro” which you’d say to a baby or small child (good night and have dreams of gold). Molto carino!
Similar to most days, many of us students went to a cafe for a coffee during the morning break. There’s a bar that opened recently on le mura with tables outside in the park. Not a bad spot to have a 15 minute chat in between classes.
At 3pm we met at the school to take a bus to a small fattoria (farmhouse) for a lezione di cucinare (cooking lesson) that cost 65 euros (about $100). The bus ride took about 20 minutes and for the second half was on a very narrow and windy road. Since the bus was bigger than pretty much every other vehicle we met (and almost as wide as the road), other cars had to give way. All I was thinking is that there is no way I could be a bus driver in this country!
Once we arrived, we had a short tour of the fattoria, including where the grapes are aged to make their red wine as well as a short overview of some of the steps involved in the wine making process. Unfortunately it had rained earlier in the day, so the workers hadn’t picked grapes that day, though usually they would have in September.
Afterwards we went inside, were given a glass of either vino bianco or vino rosso, did a toast and the lesson began.
I had no idea what to expect, especially since there were about 20 students so it wasn’t possible for us to cook the entire menu. It ended up being mostly us watching the teacher with the exception of the pasta making which everyone was able to get their hands dirty and give it a try. Since a lot of the lesson was ‘hands off’ you definitely didn’t need any actually cooking skills to join in on the fun.
She started the lesson by showing us all the things that we were going to make:
- carpaccio of zucchini (zucchini thinly sliced ‘cooked’ in olive oil and lemon juice, with herbs and then with a blanket of parmesan cheese)
- pasta alla lucchesi (small ravioli type pasta filled with sausage and cheese and then covered in a pork and beef ragu)
- a soufflé like dish that would fit in a muffin tin that was a béchamel sauce with pureed pumpkin covered in breadcrumbs and then baked
- roasted vegetables
- garden salad
- panna cotta with strawberries for dessert
Because the panna cotta had to set, she showed us how that was made first. They also made the ragu and the pumpkin dish while explaining it as they were making it.
Since a lot of people wanted to learn how to make pasta, everyone was able to do that. She first showed us and then we took turns trying it for ourselves. First we had to make the dough, then it needed to dormire (to sleep – a few of us thought that was cute and these types of occasions reenforce why I love Italian!), and then we used the pasta machine to roll out the dough and then fill it with the mixture she had made.
While people took a turn at the pasta station, the others were chopping vegetables or chopping up herbs with a mezzaluna (a chopper with two handles and cuts using a cradling movement – apparently it’s better for the herbs that to use a normal knife. It was fun and I’m going to buy one!).
All of this took a couple hours and the wine was being poured fairly freely all evening. We eventually had a bit of a break and spent that time sitting outside with views of the countryside and in the sky, there were a few hot air balloons! Bellissima!
The teachers eventually called us inside to a set table and the meal began. I don’t often eat a four course meal but when I do, I’m stuffed! We had about five minutes after we finished eating to hop on the bus for the very windy drive back to the school. By this time it was about 9pm. The combination of the wine, too much food and the windy roads were not a good combination! Bleh!
Needless to say, I slept well that night!