Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tasting an Italian Cooking Class


After taking a ferry across Lake Como and touring a villa on what felt like the hottest day I’d spent in Italy, I was scheduled to spend the afternoon in a cooking class. 

My trip to Italy for an art and faith retreat a few weeks ago was in the middle of their hottest summer in ten years {according to the locals} and my century-old hotel didn’t have air conditioning. I was hot, sleepy and completely lacking energy to tackle a cooking class. 

I thought about skipping it to put my feet up in front of the oscillating fan in my hotel room, but how could I come to Italy and not learn to cook?



So I walked up the steep steps to the top of the village hill and up even more steps to the tiny cooking school. 

I put on an apron {that felt more like a coat} and read the chalkboard hanging on the wall that held our menu: bruschetta, spinach ravioli, tagliatelle, and tiramisu for dessert.



Our large retreat group was split into several small groups since the kitchen space couldn't accommodate all of us. I’d asked those who’d gone before me how intense it was. 

{I was still a little battle-scarred from the beginner culinary course I’d taken last summer since my skills hadn't advanced much.}

No pressure, they assured me, you could do as much or as little as you liked.

We got started with the tiramisu so it could chill while we cooked the other dishes.



When the instructor Elizabetta, a charming girl who spoke almost flawless English, asked for someone to whip the mascarpone cheese and egg yolks, I volunteered. 

Whipping ingredients for baking I could do; rolling out pasta dough, I wasn’t so sure about. I also offered to dip the lady fingers in the coffee, arrange them in the pan and spread the cream over them.

I figured if I volunteered for the easy stuff early on, maybe I could leave the more challenging work to others.



I think it would be awfully nice if life followed this formula, don’t you? 

I’d avoid what compels me to step forward in faith, sidestep what calls me to stretch beyond my capabilities, and steer clear of what moves me outside my carefully constructed comfort zone into unknown territory. 

But I think that's called living on autopilot. Doing only what's familiar, without a lot of risk, and not putting my heart into it.

I think I'd rather approach life wholeheartedly, even when it's awkward and uncomfortable. I'd rather be willing to answer God's invitation to join him on adventures, like this journey to Italy. 




Even when what I'm doing is rolling out dough in a sticky, hot kitchen across the ocean.

As I watched my fellow culinary colleagues make the noodles thinner and thinner and then stretch it into the ravioli molds, I decided to give it a try.

But Elizabetta took a phone call just as I started to form the ravioli and I wasn't sure what to do next. 

My spoonfuls of spinach filling seemed too big but one of the girls helped me seal the noodles shut.


When Elizabetta returned she gently slid my imperfect little pillows of spinach ravioli to the side, saying they were a bit too plump to use.

But not to worry, she said, it's all good.

Finally, after hours of cooking in the kitchen, Mama Italiano breezed in to finish off our class. She was Elizabetta's mother and spoke little English but exuded hospitality. 

I watched as she expertly seasoned our bruschetta, gave a quick stir to the pan of tomato sauce on the stove, and poured our wine.


 


As we gathered to eat our dinner at this Italian table out on the courtyard, I listened to the life stories of Cindy and her daughters Minet and Natalie from California, Donna from Ohio, and Jane from Virginia. 

It didn’t matter that my pasta didn’t make the cooking pot or that I was hot and disheveled and sweaty. 

The evening was enchanting. 




We celebrated our diplomas that we'd completed an Italian cooking course. And in this small circle of friends, surrounded by the summer heat of Italy, with the aroma of tomato sauce wafting out from the kitchen, I knew this was one of my favorite nights here.

My apron that I wore all evening was mine to keep. I tucked it in my suitcase and decided not to wash it when I got home. 

The little pieces of pasta dough stuck to it and the flour dusted over it are just little bits of my keepsake of Corsi di cucina gusto Italiano, which means taste Italian cooking classes.

I did. And it couldn’t have been more delicious.




I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for more posts from my blogger friends!



16 comments:

  1. Oh so challenged by your words today Valerie!! ♥ I don't want to live on autopilot anymore and miss what God has for me in each moment! It's been a real challenge for me to slow down and take notice but I'm enjoying the rest God has afforded me lately. Still so proud of you for stepping out of the boat and traveling across the water with Him ♥♥ I bet the ravioli was awesome!! Love all the colors of the buildings and scenery you've shared from Italy!

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    1. Heather,
      It is amazing to enjoy the rest God gives us, isn't it? It's so easy to overlook and then we really do miss what he has for us in the moment. And yes, everything we made was truly scrumptious!

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  2. What a "delicious" post, Valerie! I could imagine the tiramisu as I was reading your words :) What an awesome trip! I second you on this one too: "I'd rather be willing to answer God's invitation to join Him on adventures, like this journey to Italy." Very much ready for the next adventure He has for me...it's coming! Blessings <3 Ashley

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    1. Ashley,
      Yes it was delicious -- all of it -- the food and the adventure of Italy! I want to always have a heart open to God's invitations, even the challenging ones! Grateful for your sweet words here!

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  3. Love this post Valerie! How nicely you weave your experiences into spiritual truths.
    Blessings,
    Patti

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    1. Patti,
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts! So grateful for you, friend!

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  4. Valerie- I just loved reading this- thank you so much for writing this! I felt like I was there and it was a mini retreat for me tonight in pictures and words- only wished I could have tried the yummy food you made! How special and wonderful- I totally get and like what you said about challenging ourselves to the harder things- I think I would have done the same thing- chosen the safe options- so glad you took the risks and that it was rewarding too- This gives me courage tonight. Thanks for this beautiful post and for sharing your adventures and your heart for God with us! xox

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    1. Susie,
      I'm so glad you felt like you were along with me on this adventure -- and I only wish you were as you would have just loved the art focus with your beautiful talents! I'm so grateful you enjoyed reading it -- this trip taught me quite a few truths and I have so much to reflect on! xoxo

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  5. oh lovely, lovely. this is probably the closest i'll ever get to Italy {or a cooking class for that matter!} it's so fun to share this journey with you.

    and your photos are marvelous.

    i'm hungry now ...

    ;-}

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    1. Linda,
      It's such a joy to share it with you, friend! You never know, one day Italy may call your name -- or maybe just a local cooking class will call out to you?! xoxo

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  6. I have been looking forward to hearing about your adventure and am not disappointed. We all have those moments of staying safe in what we are familiar with. I am proud of you for stepping out and trying!

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    1. Sarah,
      I'm so glad you enjoyed the cooking class details -- it was so much fun! Love having you along for the virtual adventure, friend! xo

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  7. I could REALLY go for some of that spinach ravioli right now! Everything sounded so so delicious! Looks like an absolute blast!

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    1. Brittany,
      There's nothing like spinach ravioli from an Italian cooking school kitchen -- even if we did make it ourselves! So amazing! :)

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  8. You always find a spiritual lesson in everyday events, Valerie. Thank you for encouraging us to step outside of our comfort zone and live life wholeheartedly. I have never had these foods, but they do sound tasty. Even the "too plump" spinach ravioli. :)

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    1. Trudy,
      Thanks for coming along for the ride! Everything I had to eat in Italy was truly delicious! thanks for reading, friend! xo

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