06 June 2010

My Food Course

My food course have been going along very well (at least from my perspective). Since I moved the class to my apartment, it seems easier to do everything--I have my projector, my computer, WiFi, a kitchen, and actual food. Last week, we had one class where we discussed Pane e Pasta (Bread and Pasta). I asked everyone to bring something to share--like a pot luck--and they all did. Francesca made a delicious ziti with tomatoes and cheese (anything else, Francesca?), other people brought different kinds of breads, and I made a platter of pasta con pesto (freshish pasta purchased en route home from my Italian class in the morning, plus deli pesto from the same Salumeria, my favorite). I also got a half loaf of Tuscan bread, which is crusty, white, and made without salt, and a small loaf of some sort of “antiqua” pane from a market I passed in the Piazza Isolo (which was a small traditionally shaped loaf, baked in a loaf pan, but clearly a sour dough bread). Mike brought a loaf of store-bought sliced whole wheat sandwich bread, and we also had a couple of other seeded, whole grain type breads.

So we cut up all of the bread into pieces for tasting and then proceeded to evaluate texture, flavor, taste, and personal preferences--and tried to figure out which breads were closed to what the Romans might have eaten and why. We had read an article about Roman bread, which described it as wheat, but coarsely ground, gray, and containing bits of the grinding medium (stones, bad for your teeth). Gives new meaning to “stone ground.” People didn’t much like the “antique” bread, but it was useful for discussing leavening techniques. Most of us really liked the seeded, whole grain-type breads best.

Then we turned to pasta. Michael had brought a bag of typical grocery store fusilli and I had a box of “Sapori di Casa” (taste of home) fettucine, which took a minute and a half to cook (compared to eight minutes for the fusilli). It was delicious and did indeed taste “Homemade,” just as the box promised. The pesto was wonderful too and we had a very tasty class. This company produces eight different varieties of pasta: Chittare, Maccheroncini, Tagliolini, Fettucine, Tagliatelle, Pappardelle, Linguine, and Maltagliati.

Last Friday, we did a similar tasting for our discussion of Olives and Olive Oil. We had five different olive oils, ranging from the typical “Pam” (supermarket) variety, to two della zona/made locally. One of these, from Salvagno, comes from Verona, and was pale green, gently fruity, and slightly peppery. The other, Fontanare, is also from the Verona region, but unfiltered. A bit more intense and peppery and cloudy in appearance, but also delicious. Next week, we do Meat and Salumi.

For me, this course offers a way of combining several different learning experiences--first, reading background material about the history of the food and the technologies related to its production over time, but second, evaluating food products and being able to directly apply the background knowledge to figure out where those foodstuffs came from and why they look and taste they way they do. It is great fun and I am learning a lot--always satisfying.

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