17 September, 2012

Italy: Day 6 - Cooking class

This was, of course, a Yoga & Cooking retreat. Until today, the cooking had been done for us, and it has certainly been great. But today was the day where we finally had our cooking class. Looking back, I can say that it is a good idea that we did this toward the end of the trip, rather than the beginning, because it was something that was nice to do with a group that was comfortable together.

After the morning practice, we had breakfast, and then a short break. Then, around 10:30am we started the class, on the back patio of Locanda del Gallo with one of the staff, Isabella, who was Italian-speaking only (well, plus Spanish). This isn't a problem, because half our group is reasonably fluent in Italian, and Sue acted as translator for us.

We would be preparing 4 things (only 2 of which we had a significant hand in preparing, and the other two, we watched). We made bread (pretty standard), and gnocchi (a new experience, that I would like to try to replicate). And we watched the preparation of a simple pomodoro sauce (which I definitely want to replicate), and a dessert of chocolate mousse, that contained mascarpone cheese. The actual preparation was sort of just a fun process, as a group. It was the first time, the entire week, where we ate a pasta dish consisting of a simple pomodoro sauce, and it was a great meal (we ended up eating it for lunch). The big lesson of that cooking class, for me, was that nobody should be buying jars of Prego. Making sauce is like the easiest thing in the world. Easier than making a grilled cheese sandwich. No excuses to buy it in a jar.

After lunch, people took naps, and I did some of my daily writing, plus uploading photos.

Then, in the afternoon, I went for a moderately long walk with Sue and Lola, around the woods, and neighborhood. We passed through somewhere that was called something like "The Free State of Alcatraz" which is apparently some strange hippie/artist community, with bizarre sculptures and artwork all over the street and woods. I wish I had taken photos, and am not sure why I did not, since it was interesting, and I had my camera. I think I found the art to be gaudy. But since it was so odd, might have been nice to document it.

We had our evening practice, and then, in my opinion, the best dinner of the entire trip. I haven't really mentioned how amazing our chef, Jimmy, is. But he is amazing. Not just as a chef, but as a host. Though he is "only" an employee here, he's part of the heart and soul of the place. He is from Sri Lanka, and he just has the most entertaining and genuine personality. Most evenings, he joins us by the table for some conversation near the end of dinner. And his character is a true highlight of this trip. Plus, his cooking has been fantastic, spanning all sorts of genres of cuisine, not merely Italian. Tonight's dinner was risotto, with a cheesy sauce, probably the yummiest thing I've had (because I love that kind of thing). Then we had very thin (pounded) breasts of turkey in a light sauce, and tender roasted chunks of fennel with melted cheese. Dessert was the chocolate mousse that was made at lunchtime. Unbelievably good.

In the evening, seemed like several of us were not as sleepy as we should probably have been. I had a great conversation with Sue, learning more about yogaHOPE, and talking about yoga practice and the philosophy thereof.

It was a GOOD day, and I am excited about Day 7, though sad that it will be our last.

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