Ben Learns Tuscan Cooking

For my 18th birthday my Mom gave me a stipend to take a cooking class. My cooking skills are marginal: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta, meat sandwich, and probably some other stuff if you gave me instructions.

A couple nights ago I took a Regional Tuscan Cuisine English cooking class in Florence. It was $105 for 2.5 hours. Unfortunately, it wasn’t how-to as much as "do it!". Most of the other students were taking several classes there — I was the only drop-in. The demographics gave me a chuckle: moms over 50 in one corner and college-age students in the other.

After arriving and receiving my apron, the chef started going through the ingredients for each of the three courses. At one point she asked, "Does anyone know what gelatin is made of?" A college aged male student responded in that way only college students can answer: "Jello?" The chef smiled. "No, fishbones." She continued. About a minute later the guy answers, "Really? Fishbones?"

We made three dishes. Panzanella (a salad dish), Polpettine Guarinte Garnished Meat Balls (main dish), and Zuccotto (desert). Since there was no how-to (just "do!) I joined the desert group. My task was to chop the candy fruit. I did so enthusiastically.
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The best part about the class wasn’t the cooking or the eating (delicious!) but the social component. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a group conversation over a meal with English speaking friends. It made me jovial.

Some good brain food came out of it, too. I met a senior at Tulane double majoring in communications and visual arts (visual literacy — what an important skill) and a senior at George Washington U who’s studying journalism and communications in a desire to go into public relations. Some bloggy-like issues there. Also met a Swedish couple who, after a few cooking classes, were going on a "cooking utensils" trip/class. I didn’t probe, but I wish I had. What exactly does that entail? Examining all different kinds of knives? "Ooh, I can really see that knife shearing a chicken breast well," one might say. Who knows.

In any event, a delightful last evening in Florence: some practice cutting candy fruit, fun socializing, and brain food to boot. Thanks Mom for the birthday present!

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