My three weeks in Italy went by so quickly. What I miss most are the early morning walks up to the castle from the dorm. I cherished walking to school with other people while chatting and getting to know them a little better. And I also enjoyed walking alone a lot and admiring the scenery of the vineyards around me. When I arrived in Asti the trees were green but when I left if was a beautifully scenery of orange, rust, and gold. It was autumn, around 4 degrees already and the leaves were beginning to fall.
My second and third week in school I learned how to make regional meat and seafood dishes. I learned how to make fresh pasta like gnocchi, tortellini and other stuffed pasta. I don’t like baking and I prayed so hard that I wouldn’t get that for my final exams. Now I seriously know how to make focaccia, ciabatta, pizza, grissini and other kinds of bread. We also had sessions on gelato, dolce and pasticceria.
We also had a series of Italian language classes with Ilaria. My favourite part of all was Enoteca. I love learning about Italian regional wines with a passion. My teacher Gianni is the Albert Einstien of oenology. The cellar is cold and people tend to fall asleep during his lecture but I remained attentively listening to his every word. With the knowledge he has I think he even talks to the grape vines. In ICIF there is also Bridgette our lovely and darling interpreter, Elisa is wonder woman, Chef Simone and Mario our chef instructors, and Mirella our den mother.
Our final exam was judged by a Michelin star chef, a food writer, and two directors from the school. It was draw lots and I got risotto. I was a bit anxious because for two hours I was not doing anything. Then in about twenty minutes before service time I had to rush and make the dish. Risotto is all about perfect timing. It takes 17 minutes to make the perfect risotto right before the “manteclaro” stage of adding cheese, butter and/ or olive oil. After this stage you can’t put any stock anymore or it will break. The rice granules have to be al dente and not over cooked. Also if prepared too early it can turn into a sticky mass, once made it has to be served right away. Luckily mine turned out to be a success.
Our form of entertainment at the dorm was ping pong and the Internet. We were sort of trapped in the casa in the evenings. After the last bus at 9pm, a taxi would cost 30 euros to town. So at night the guys would gather wood and build a camp fire in the yard. Also in a house full of chefs we had no access to cooking facilities since we had our meals in the castle. After a period of time we were craving to cook our own country’s comfort food. We would barbecue meat, rabbit, burgers and sausages. I really missed rice and adobo. Camp fire nights were great bonding moments. Hanging out mostly with classmates coming from the different countries colonized by Spain I ended up speaking more Spanish than Italian. My students (turned classmates) and new found friends from different parts of the world are kind, fun, and wonderful people. So during our stay in Asti Italy the people in Casa Sallerio became “family”.
I had missed out on my twenties so I felt like it was given back to me to experience. It was my first time to live in a dorm. Although I must admit the dorm life is not for me and in the later part found myself homesick when the place started getting too crowded with the new batches. For a while I got away with posing as a young student until our Italian partner from Turin divulged my identity. Hehe! In the end it was a great experience getting to know people of different nationalities who share the same passion and love for cuisine. And I miss them already:)