Saturday, January 29, 2011

Things I've learned So Far in my Internship part 3:

That I can taste the difference between extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil.
To make puree of potatoes, or cooking vegetables that come from the ground, to put them into a pot first and then cover with cold water, not add to boiling water.
When given a list of things to do, I choose potatoes first.....Get them out of the way, right?
That I still don't know the directions of the knobs to light the stove (higher/lower the flame). ansiosa.
That you can give yourself raw blisters from a lighter. accendino.
Green beans do in fact come from Kenya.
Dotto (Doc), Gongolo (Happy), Eolo (Sneezy), Cucciolo (Dopey), Brontolo (Grumpy), Mammolo (Bashful) e Pisolo (Sleepy) are the names of the Seven Dwarfs. And Biancaneve. and Principe Azzurro.
How to clean and steam mussels and clams.
I can tell the difference between 1, 2, and 3 year old culatello's by texture, colour, and smell. Well. I was told.
Vai a casa means vaffanculo.
The middle finger is universal.
Alto Cinque does not translate to high five.
Cotecchino is sticky sticky sticky.
That eating fennel is good for preventing cramps. but only if you eat it before running.
That just because you understand one or two words in a sentence, doesn't mean you understand the sentence. "Do you want a coffee" is not the same as "have you already had a coffee"...Si does not mean you will get one.
Team work is better.
Barbra Streisand.
How to drag the knife across to cut a cherry tomato instead of cutting down as to not lose all the juices and seeds.
How to burn jerusalem artichoke chips. (but after being told to leave them alone.)
How to piss off Martin. 
Dai Dai Dai means Go Go Go. Come On. 
Non sono completamente stupida. 

That foccaccia pizza (props to Mauro) is the best thing ever and that 7 fat slices in a day isn't enough.

Next Week.....Dolce.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"…thats the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." the great gatsby

"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. " — James Beard

"Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future." - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Things I've learned So Far in my Internship part 2:

"Firework" is a universally liked song (age, gender, language, country)
More salt is always the answer.
Artichokes are not a spring vegetable in Italy.
It takes 7 minutes to boil artichokes in Malvasia, vinegar and water.
I'm still scared of choking customers with the "beard" of the artichoke.
If something is burning, do something.
Somethings don't translate so literally from English to Italian. You can't literally walk out of un armadio.
That dry hands are inevitable. So are hives.
Egg yolks are a great natural hand moisturizer. Fried chicken batter is not.
How to make fried pumpkin and jerusalem artichoke chips.
How to make frutti di mare salad (cooked mussels, clams, seppia, quartered tomatoes, boiled courgettes, and perfectly diced parsley)
Don't put salad on the same plate as pasta. sacrilego.
fidanzata means girlfriend. fidanzato means boyfriend.
Biancaneve e i Sette Nani means Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Standing for eight hours makes 22:30 seem impossible to stay awake for.
But going for a run after work, despite the lack of feeling in your legs, in the rain, in the cold, in the dark is invigorating. Foggy culatello weather is the best.
How to cut, season, and tie wild boar saddles.
How to tie goose thighs stuffed with it's foie gras.
Giraffes are not llamas. Nor camels nor a dromadery (new word).
Sasha, Suzie, Samaglia, Shana, Chowna, Sofia, Sonya, Fiona all pass for Shauna in Italian.
Constant nightmares about cutting up vegetables is a common occurrence.
That I'm not incompetent, but that I have to work on my confidence and not feeling like I'm in the way or overstepping chef boundaries.
How to "stamp" anolini parmigiani pasta!
Ignorance (in italiano) is still bliss. Sometimes.
Two months is not long enough for an internship. Oh wait, February is an even shorter month. Not fair....

‎"In four months, you learn the essentials of the place. If you want to learn them properly, you have to stay a year, to cook through the seasons." Thanks, Jess, for the quote. Maybe I'll stay...

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Sriracha Cookbook. Wow.

Even though I already add Sriracha to just about everything I eat...this is pretty amazing. 

Only in Italy... it normal to meet up with coworkers on a sunday night at midnight and then three hours later drive fifteen minutes to a little dark alley in an industrial part of town, pull up to a door where the bright lights inside reveal people making fresh pastries for the morning and be able to buy a cream-filled (or nutella) pastry as a late night snack.

late night pizza? no. late night just-made pastry.

ok...maybe not only in italy. but it happened. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Only in Italy...

...can you ride your bike to work and have to stop for a pig and goose crossing the street, running amuck like two young school friends. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

"What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow." — A.A. Milne

As I was peeling my second crate of potatoes for the day, which filled the 6th bucket in the last two days (that's a lot of potatoes), I was thinking not only how miserabley monotone peeling potatoes is (what was I thinking when I begged Cava to please hire me as I'd even peel the potatoes) but also thinking how much I liked working in a restaurant. The conviviality, the constant motion, the comfy unflattering outfits, the dopey paper hats, and the satisfaction from seeing food that I have prepared being used to plate dishes. I've been working on the "segundo" station (there's antipasta, pasta, segundo, dolce) so we are in charge of the meat/fish/veg main dishes. I'm shown what to do with an example and then am put to work - I'm just surprised that they trust me so much with my lack of professional culinary experience. My minced onion was larger than the brunoise-y carrots that took me probably 30 minutes to do what a real chef could do in 3. But in they went together for a salsa to be stuffed into an artichoke. I frequently laugh with embarrassment as I cannot imitate the arm motions needed for the cutting knife skills that look so flawless, so natural yet so clumsy and awkward on myself.

Back to the potatoes. In the morning, I cut up potatoes (previously peeled yesterday) to be boiled and then roasted with aromatic salt and rosemary. At lunch, we had roasted chicken and the potatoes I had "made." (made is peeled and cut - not technically in charge of the roasting time). Martin had taken them out of the oven and showing them to Matteo said, they are cooked perfectly. So as I sat down to lunch, I said to Marco, I made these! and later he made an "attenzione attenzione" announcement to the table that I had made the potatoes. I learned a new word. Arrossire means to blush.

Back to the potatoes. Everyone's making fun of me as they walk by for the constant potato action. Just as I'm thinking how horrible it was, Martin comes over and says basta. stop. He calls me over to his station and shows me how he plates some of the dishes as the tickets came in for the lunch service. Then he goes, in three minutes, it's your turn. AHHH. I plated a dish!  Branzino with seafood salad and a vegetable stuff phyllo-pastry. Complete with the sauce streak across the plate like I learned at Cava. It was thrilling and I was grateful and definitely worth all the potato peeling. I went happily back to my bucket, also known as un secchio, and dipped my hand into the icy cold water for another potato. 

Things I've learned So Far in my Internship:

How to stand with a straight back to avoid shoulder cramps from leaning over a cutting board and from using kitchen tools all day.
How to poach just the delicate egg yolk.
To wear gloves when cutting artichokes or else your fingertips will turn brown and stink.
That I hate the responsibility of peeling artichokes because of the one time Poppi came over "choking."
The high standards Cava has set the bar for me.
Topinambur means jerusalem artichoke.
How to make and roll grissini.
Chefs must wash their own knives.
That whipping zabbione will make you want to saw off your arm.
When frying chicken, the batter calls for 3 eggs per 1 chicken.
I make delicious fried chicken.
How to not flinch when boiling water or oil is splashed onto me.
How to properly chop parsley. let the knife gliiiiiiiide.
Microwaves seem sorta like cheating.
Paper chef hats give you awfully flat hat-hair.
How to pretend to not to understand Italian (and how to really not understand Italian).
Not all restaurants have expediters.
Malvasia is a great meat marinade.
A menu should state when tartare is hand-cut. no really.
Manciata means handful (as in a measurement) (my hands are smaller than Martin's)
How to cook under pressure (not sous-vide, but when given a time limit to finish a task. my confidence, competence, and comprehension are not quite up to par)
Don't forget the ice bath.
Grilling is sweaty.
Work is better when it feels like family.


One of the most frequently asked questions while living abroad is "where are you from?" For some incomprehensible reason, my answer is always long and awkward. I stumble something like, "well, I was born in Connecticut, but I moved here from New Hampshire, but I only lived there for a year so it's not really where I'm from, and I lived in New York for two years after University and my family no longer lives in Connecticut so that's no longer home, but my family is actually from Ireland." (to anyone who doesn't know me, I much prefer to be considered Irish than American and will never forgive my parents for moving 3 years too early. To anyone who does know me, no offense.) Connecticut, to anyone who knows it, gives off a certain stereotype (yes, a professor here once responded with a disappointing "Oh.") and to anyone who doesn't know it, like most Italians, it means absolutely nothing as to where I'm from. Long and Awkward. So, generally, I say, home is in Colorno. It's not where I'm from-from, but home is where the heart is, right? 
 I do miss this view.

So, saying that....I was really anxious to go "home" for the winter holidays after classes ended. I hadn't gone home for summer holidays like most students and wasn't sure what to expect after being away on a different continent, in a different culture, with different friends, experiencing a different lifestyle, in a different time zone for so long. I was so adamant about staying in Europe after graduation that I was scared if I went back and saw all my friends and was close with my family every day that I wouldn't want to come back. I was scared that I would go back and the whole year would be forgotten, far away, and feel like only a dream I longed to fall back asleep to. But surely enough, the day came and suddenly I found myself at the airport (only so so lucky to get out on time that morning before the snow closed all the airports in Europe) and suddenly I was back in America. My parents split their time between NYC and NH and I didn't know where I wanted to spend more time. I had only spent a little over a year in Portsmouth, but fell in love with it and the people there. I didn't know if I would want to leave again. In NYC, while I was away, most of my best friends had met and started dating seriously, gotten engaged, and were on their way up the big city's ladder. That lifestyle is way beyond me and I was nervous about not having anything in common. My sister had moved in to the city while I was away and I also had never been to my parents new place in NYC,  so going to that "home" would be weird and unfamiliar. However, despite all these fears and anticipations, going "home" was absolutely fabulous. In Portsmouth, I knew nothing would have changed, and it didn't. I loved seeing everyone, going back to Cava, going out like always, and in the end, I got it out of my system. I still love it, but I can't stay there. In New York, it was so great to see all my friends and although their lifestyles are different than mine right now, we are still the same and it was as though nothing had changed - just more to catch up on in person. I loved being with my family every day and being able to spend so much time with them. I caught up with my brother and his fiance on wedding plans - even though I am quite far for the planning and the parties - and my sister, all real-life grown-up, is so lucky to have my parents in the city with her. I like being able to picture their lives in the City, to feel a part of it when they talk about it now, and not only see what Skype has to offer.

Christmas in Portsmouth
 Big Snow Storm in NYC

My lil' angelic Jesspoo
Even if we spent Christmas in Ireland and I never left European soil, I know I would have been happy to spend it with my family. But I am grateful for the chance to go back and see my friends and family, both in Portsmouth and Manhattan, and to be a part of their lives again. Home can be anywhere you want it to be, where you're happy. Even though I'm pretty damn happy wherever I am, I am happy to be back in Colorno - at least for another two months :)
Who knows where my next home will be after graduation in March (the world is ending anyways, right Jess?) but how could I not miss being a part of this? xo

"Happy endings are still endings." Gregory Maguire

"After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die." - Charlotte's Web

The End of UNISG

There were a lot of emotions flying around at the end of the school year and as I mentioned before, I couldn't bear to write about it as it sorta meant it was really happening. Brittany though, is an excellent writer and whenever I read her blog, she expresses my sentiments exactly. So, please read here to understand and sum up the end of a wonderful wonderful year at UNISG. 

"Sure, it has been challenging on various levels. Sure,it has not always met our expectations.  Sure, it’s far from perfect.  But, I would have had it no other way.  It’s imperfections and the bumps that we encountered along the road, are part of what makes it what it is – truly special. "

"Because that would mean letting go. That would really mean it’s over. That would mean that this is no more.  What was once present, has now become past."

Monday, January 10, 2011

List of Possible Internships

Like my list of ideas for what to do over the 6 week summer holiday, I had compiled a list of possible internships. We were told at one of our very first classes that our ideas would change at least twelve times and to keep an open mind throughout the year. I think my ideas changed thirty-seven times and yes, I did indeed have a very open mind to what I could do.

Food Photography
Food Styling
Cookbook Production
Recipe Development
Jamie Oliver Limited
Eco-Friendly Hotels (preferably in SE Asia, but also looked into the UK and Southern Italy)
Writing for Food/Travel/Restaurant Guides
Growing Spicy Peppers in Argentina, Thailand or Tunisia
Traditional Wild Boar Hunting in Tuscany
Making Vodka in Poland or New Zealand
Instituto Espanol de Gastronomia
Mercato Barcellona-Boqueria
Mussel Farming (did that in Friulli, check)
Growing Coffee in a plantation in Central/South America
Working on a Vineyard in Argentina
Food Tourism in Italy
International Water Project in Africa
Studying the Menus at the NY Public Library
Producing Salt in Wales
Tutti Piccante Self Study in Calabria
The School of Artisan Food
Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino
Making Yak Cheese in Tibet
Saving the Robinson Crusoe Island Seafood off the coast of Chile after meeting fishermen at Salone del Gusto
Hanging out in Donegal for 2 months and coming up with some thesis paper.
Working at Pallavicina
Self Study of the foods of Emilia-Romagna**
Food and Wine Consulting
Self Study aka Island Vacation with my friends

Note to future students: although you may feel as though you have all the power in the world to save the world with your degree, you still have to pay 2-months rent for your apartment during the internship and there is no additional funding. Yes, students have and are doing fantastic, fascinating things with their internships and I'm excited about mine too. I will be working at a family-owned restaurant in town called Al Vedel. I'm not really sure what I'll be doing there and hope I can handle restaurant life and hours again. They have a seasonal menu with local products highlighting the regional cuisine, an impressive wine collection and even make their own culatello. I'm looking forward to cooking and learning more about the regional foods that we have learned so much in class and from living here for the last ten months (see above **). I think it will be tough, but I also think it will be good for me because I would go crazy during the winter in this small town. so, fingers crossed!

...and these are just the ones I remembered/bookmarked...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Clothes always come in bigger sizes." - Susan Reigler

Our Last Day.

The last day of classes started with prosecco at 10am. We had a last-day-of-class brunch filled with pastry goodies and mimosas as the last group presented their Tuscany reports. All of them were incredibly interesting - I paid attention despite my pre-presentation nerves; there gets to be a point where you just to care anymore, it's going to happen no matter what...maybe it was the prosecco. I was second to last to go and although I found my topic rather interesting, I don't think the professor did as he started to pack up to go. Oh, well, I still got a good grade! After that, we had History of Refrigeration class. Quite intriguing, actually, but I'm still not sure how that guy got into his profession...Half way through, Asher, Jules and I took a quick break to sneak up to the top of the Reggia and enjoyed the view.
Oh, Colorno. You look even smaller from up high. 

After class, we had a holiday party - not a good-bye party. Jules and Asher cooked dozens of hamburgers for us and the tutors brought out the wine. I played a slideshow video I had made for my friends and then it was off for One Last Night at the Pub. Dancing on the tables One Last Time, of course.
 going to miss you guys.
 no tears.
 Asher the DJ.
baci baci.

Our Last Meal Together

Before we left, we had one last Colorno dinner together. It was most appropriate that we cooked together, ate together, and drank together as that's what we've done for the last 10 months. And even more appropriate, to have red wine from Parma, artisinal beer from Colorno, and Diana's infamously favourite radicchio lasagna. I will miss these dinners - the ease of getting together, the creativity of dishes, the deliciousness of food, the shared plates and utensils, the rearranging tables and squeezed in chairs, the flowing wine, the erupting laughter, the photos taken, the warmth of our homes, piles of leftover dishes and flour dust, taking turns cleaning, and barely ever having any leftovers. 

Christmas in Parma

"Unexpected intrusions of beauty. That is what life is." Saul Bellow

"Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive." Chocolat, Joanne Harris

The Last Weekend.

Before we left for winter holidays, 18 of us rented a house in Piemonte and spent the last weekend there together. Along tiny winding roads in the dark, with the Pole Star and an old fashioned map to guide us (GPS what?) with instructions that noted "keep going up is always the correct way" we finally made it to this gorgeous house on top of a hill. Everyone brought all their leftover food and I think all we did was cook and eat. Very appropriate for ending our UNISG year. 
 We played football until we ran out of breath (3 minutes later), 
  took a walk until we saw the snow covered Alps in the distance, 
 tried unsuccessfully to visit a Robiola di Roccaverano DOP cheese maker, ate snow, 
laughed, cried, smoked out the pizza oven, 
 ate some more (just some of the food that was brought), cooked some more, 
 ate Polly's Pancakes from NH (hello, Erns), made bread, 
 my bread was incredibly edible, 
 played cards and solitaire,
 ate some more,
 drank Piemonte wine and Irish coffees, 

 "Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat."— Alex Levine
 danced, reminisced, played dj,
  wrote Tuscany reports, tried not to get shot by hunters,
 ate, drank and laughed all weekend.

Massimo Bottura: "Keep your feet grounded but your mind open. Don't let them cut your wings. If you grow up too fast the wind will blow you away."

One of our last classes before the end of the year and one of our favourites, was taught by Chef Massimo Bottura who owns Osteria Francescana in Modena - voted by San Pelligrino as the best restaurant in Italy and #6 in the world. He taught us that dishes are chef's answers, they are expressions about creation that should spark interest, passion, and emotion that cry and speak to the soul not the palate. His philosophy of cooking is more about the expression, not the technique - although I'm pretty sure he's got the technique down to utter perfection. This artistic influence he believes in is essential for humanity he says because it is a means of communication. It's quite unsurprising that in 2000, Time Magazine supposedly named one of his creations one of the top 10 dishes that changed modern cuisine. His dish, ice cream foie gras terrine, was a block of his homemade foie gras, delicately carved out to be filled with 45 year old balsamic vinegar, then dipped and dressed in Napoli almonds and Piemonte hazelnuts. It is then put on a small wooden stick to imitate an ice cream bar. like a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar...but not pink.   
 While he was making this, he passed around his family's own 45 year old balsamic vinegar, which is good for digestion, and we were instructed to "chew" to incorporate the air and this way it won't feel acidic even though it is 7% acidity.
 Then we got to taste the foie gras...
"feeding hungry minds, not empty bellies"
 Next, he made a recreation of bollito misto, a typical Northern Italian dish meaning boiled mixed meats. He was inspired by the 59th Street playground in New York City where he was playing with his young son. The meat, vacuum cooked instead of boiled to keep the flavours, represented the skyscrapers, the parsley air foam was the tree tops, and the salted capers and anchovies were the people on the street. Imagine having that creativity. I wish skyscrapers motivated me to create a masterpiece.
photo thanks to Diana
He was interested in us and teaching us and his enthusiasm, passion, energy, generosity, and talent were nothing short of inspiring. 

"Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced." Letters, by John Keats

So, it's been a while since I've written. I've been through a whirlwind of events and maybe writing about them actually meant that the year was ending and I didn't want to come to that realization. But it's happened. Classes are officially over. All assignments have been sent (as of 7 minutes ago). Some people have returned home and will not be back for graduation - hopefully not goodbye's for forever. With much anticipation, home for the holidays came and went and was lovingly filled with friends and family. 2011 is here so, now that I'm back in Colorno I think it's time to recap.