This was cooking class day in Tuscany for the six travelers from Tomball, Texas. We took a morning stroll through Florence learning about the food history and food traditions in Tuscany. Our American stereotypes are so wrong. “Less is more” is the Italian thinking when it comes to food ingredients. Oregano is rarely used in Italian cuisine. Rosemary is more prevalent. Chicken is not used with pasta, ever. Coffee is not “to go” since you are served a small amount in a glass cup strongly brewed, and you drink it at the counter. Mozzarella that is sold in America grated in a bag is not Italian mozzarella and is a fake reproduction, since real mozzarella is fresh and too soft to be grated. Pumpkin and zucchini flowers are used in many Italian food preparations. We walked the central market and learned about Italian cuts of meat and why rabbit is preferred to chicken on menus.
Later, we took a bus to a beautiful Tuscan hillside and entered a wonderful professional kitchen–the entire cookstove had the burners over a well, in which hot water could flow to keep it clean while cooking and to prevent spills and burning that needed to be cleaned later–all the mess simply washed away down a drain in the rear. We all helped prepare our meal from the food purchased on our tour of the market–bruschetta (pronounced broo-skett-uh); pizza cooked in a large outdoor oven for 90 seconds at 800 degrees F; the correct dough for ovens that heat to 500 degrees; tagliatelle with ragu–no salt on the meat until the end and the holy trilogy of onion, celery and carrot sautéed in extra virgin olive oil as the foundation base; Tuscan potatoes and two desserts that we also made–tiramisu and gelato.
We ate our meal overlooking the Tuscan hills chatting with the new acquaintances we had made from Australia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Maryland. It was a great experience, and we have recipes. — September 3, 2015 — WEG