Hello Readers, from me to you, I hope you enjoy a look inside the Culinary World!
The Global Cuisines & Cultures trip is something most bachelor's students look forward to. I know I was looking forward to this trip since I found out about it during orientation back in October 2011, almost three years ago. I decided right then and there that I wanted to go to Italy. Well, I made it happen and this three week trip became something more than just my first trip out of the country. I made some of the best friends I have come to know through my time here at the CIA, and had the best cappuccino of my life. (Cappuccinos and Espresso have been ruined for me forever. Nothing can compare here in America. Not even that pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. Nothing fills the void.)
Just a little background, our Chef Instructor for the trip was Joe De Paola, and our guide/translator was Raffella. Both were fantastic and dedicated their time and efforts to helping create and foster an incredible environment for our trip which we maintained throughout the course of our time in Italy.
While in Italy, language was a constant factor in all of our lives, which is odd because it is something I have always taken for granted. A lot of the times the purveyors and chefs and producers we visited did not speak English and for the most part none of us spoke any Italian, or if any at all, it was quite limited. So getting used to hearing something I didn't understand more than I did combined with having to get used to the whole concept of translation was rather difficult. It was a challenge however that defined the trip and listening to everyone around me speak in Italian became much more of a pleasure than a chore. To be perfectly honest, we were also very lucky as a group to have a wonderful guide and translator, Raffella, who was amazing at her job and also very patient with all of us and our wide-eyed wonder. Whenever we found ourselves wandering the streets of the three cities we stayed in (Genova, Torino, and Bologna) it became a sense of pride for myself and others when we were able to successfully get around and build up the confidence in ourselves to not let the language barrier become something that would stop us from doing everything we wished to do. And there was quite a lot to do.
Most readers would think, "Wow you got to go to Italy and eat so much food and drink a lot of wine, that must have been an incredible vacation!" Well it was incredible, but let me tell you, this trip was no vacation. Now I'm not saying that it was bad, absolutely not. But what I am saying is that this trip was a completely educational experience that was honestly like a marathon. Being out and about on average from 10-14 hours a day, day in and day out is tough. Add in the travel to and from our locations that could be anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.... It got tough. Don't forget having to be professional, respectable, and get along with the same 20 people every single day, a lot of the time in confined areas. It was much more physically and mentally taxing than any of us prepared for.
But being able to wake up and go for a guided tour of the coastal town of Camogli, then participate in a demo of sardine cleaning and salting, followed by a four course meal with several bottles of wine, then an hour bus ride up the mountains to take a walk up and down hills through an incredible vineyard, hop back on the bus for a 30 minute ride to a wine shop where we took part in a standing wine tasting of five different wines produced from the grapes we had just walked among and tasted in the vineyard, then an hour bus ride back to the hotel where we all got changed to go our separate ways for dinner, drinks, and our evening wanderings. That's impressive. And that was only one day. All of our days were as intense and jam-packed as this, but it was what made this experience what it was. I'll never forget how tired I was at the basil farm and pesto producer in Genova, but at the same time how excited I was to eat (probably at the amazement of Chef De Paola and some of my friends) five plates of gnocchi with pesto, three plates of raviolo with pesto, and probably 20 crackers with all three types of pesto at once. Oh, and this was two hours before the five course dinner we were about to have.
The way I looked at it, nothing could get in my way of experiencing as much of everything as I possibly could. That included as much consumption of edible products as possible. It included as much of everything as possible!
It seemed so simple at first. Go to Italy, eat some food, drink some wine, see some amazing sites, and maybe relax in the sun. But the perspective of hindsight is 20/20 and let me tell you, it was so much more than that.
There are very few times in your life (to be honest you are lucky if you have even one) where you experience as much.... New and similar experiences all at once in such a short period of time. Now what I mean by that is not quite so easy to explain but for you, I will try!
The life of a culinary professional is one full of trial, hardship, reward, blood, sweat, tears, and passion. Before this trip I often spoke of what I loved most about being in this industry is that all of us speak the same language in a sense, we all share a common passion which allows us as a select group to communicate more than just information when we talk, cook, bake, and drink with each other. After these three weeks in Italy, it has confirmed a thought I had never even had until now as I sit here writing this. It's not just at home, in America, in that little bubble of the world that what I am speaking of is true.
It is everywhere.
Because you see, food is an experience, something that crosses all boundaries, it creates bridges across cultural and language gaps, it brings people together who have never met and will probably never meet again, it gives all involved something much more intense than a souvenir to take home. It becomes a memory of all of that, all the emotion is bundled into something you never truly forget--a treasure to hold on to that no one could ever put a price on.