Friday, March 11, 2011

Food and the Countryside

Hey everyone, this is Kevin. Midterms are coming up and procrastination time has turned into panic time. I’m sure you’re all used to that. So I haven’t really talked about my classes yet. They’re all pretty interesting. I think I said before I was taking culinary and history classes. The history class I’m taking, the history of the Medici family, is pretty standard. You do your readings and you go to lecture. But pretty much every other class, we go on a tour of the city

with a focus on the Medici. Last week we explored the crypt of San Lorenzo and the Palazzo dei Medici. They were incredible buildings that housed incredible people.

The culinary classes I’m taking, Italian vegetarian cooking and Italian cooking traditions are both very interesting. We learn about ingredients – their history, what they are used for, how they are prepared, etc. And we go over recipes. We break into groups and complete different recipes that usually are based off the same ingredients. Our teacher goes over the main techniques and the culinary theory that accompanies the recipe and the ingredients. Sometimes we go on gastronomic walking tours. We’ve gone to chocolate stores, gelato shops, bakeries, Panini shops – tons of different places. They give us a rundown of their operation and how they make their products. Then they give free samples of their products. It’s a lot of fun. Plus it usually saves me from having to buy lunch.


Speaking of food, I went to a farm this weekend - The Podere cheese farm. It was a student services trip. We went to the farm via public bus and met the cheese farmers. They were very nice to us. After we became acquainted, they took us in like family. They hand make their own cheese using fresh goat milk – part from the morning and part from the evening before. They

showed us how they make 2 cheeses: caprino and ricotta – all by hand. They use pretty simple methods. Boiling, draining, and letting the cheese rest. It was very natural.

So afterwards they led us up to visit the goats in the pens. And they ended up letting us into the pen with the baby goats and their moters. Actually, right before we arrived to the pens, there

was a live birth right there. But to be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to the whole live birth thing since I was chasing baby goats around. So then me and some ot

hers started to pet the newborn baby goat. But then someone told me it was born about 10 minutes ago and it was covered in… well it was pretty wet. So I kind of immediately regretted touching the goat.

I asked the farmer if it was a boy or a girl and he replied and he said it was a boy. Then he took out a knife and cut something off. I started to freak out, considering the context of our conversation, but then I figured out all he cut off was the umbilical cord. And I was suddenly a lot more comfortable.

So we leave the pen and watch the first encounter between the mother and its kid. The farmer pretty much had to drag the mother over to its kid. But nature did the rest. It was a pretty special experience.

When we left the area, we had noticed that a couple of goats escaped the pen and were running around. The shepherd dog just kind of watched them until he realized he had a job to do.

So he gathers them up and chases them into a building where the farmers capture the goats. I posted a video of the dog doing his job.

Anyway we go back down to the cheese lab and they treat us to some of the most delicious cheese I’ve ever had. Afterwards we took a short walk through the Italian countryside / wine fields to the small village of Grave. Every September, when their wine is done fermenting, this village has a huge wine tasting and celebration. Chianti wine, which is made from the Chianti grape in Tuscany, is the most popular and well known in the area. People from all over Tuscany come to Grave to sample their wines. We explored this quaint little village for a couple of hours before heading back to Florence.

This was a great trip. This you ever make it to Tuscany, try to take some time to explore the countryside. It has a much friendlier culture and its really beautiful. Anyway, I

’ll post back soon with more stories. Ciao!

Kevin


video



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