Friday, July 26, 2013

Day 13: Menaggio, Italy

Monday, July 22, 2013

Today's highlights:
   -Cooking Class! 
   -Life lesson learned
   -Relaxed night

Oh man, today was so great! Today, we took a cooking class with a real Italian chef. And THEN we got to eat what he made! So so so delicious! 

As soon as we woke up, we took a ferry across the lake to Varenna where his wife picked us up and drove us up to his restaurant on top of the mountain. And let me begin by saying, I never ever want to drive in Italy. The roads are tiny and winding and only wide enough for one car. Around every corner, you just lay on the horn to warn anyone coming from the opposite direction that you are there. It is insane and terrifying. But we made it up there!

We were with a fun group too. There were 10 of us. A retired American couple, a 30's couple with two young kids back home, two middle-aged, hilarious Canadian couples, and us. We especially connected with the other younger couple. Super friendly and as excited to be there as we were :).

Our Chef's name was Chef Moreno, and he was awesome. We made not one but THREE main courses. He taught us to make homemade pasta in tomato-based sauce, gnocchi in a white sauce, and risotto! And holy Hannah, they were unreal! We were there for like 6 hours so I will spare you all the details. But I will include some of my favorite lines from Chef Moreno:

"It is one of the most easier fings to do wit your life." (Referring to cooking)

"Show the garlic who is boss in the kitchen!"

"All you need is passion and that is all. It does not matter how many recipes you know. Just how many passion you put in."

"Think of cooking as a way to relax yourself."

"Here is Mr. Basil. Thisa mean 'summer.'"

"All things in moderation. Right quantity in food, right quantity in wine. Only one wife."

"I started learning English to know what Led Zeppelin was saying. Now I know I choose the most bad teacher in the whole world."

(When we had to roll the gnocchis off of a fork), "It make it easier to say 'Shuuuuuuut up!' while you flick it."

He was hilarious, but in a really subtle way. He doesn't laugh at his own jokes, but you can't help but laugh. Here are the only decent pics we got on our phones. The rest are on our camera:

So not only did we (really he) make all this food and get to eat it at the end, he gave us like 2 or 3 rounds of snack time in between (including all the wine you want. Our Canadian friends were swaying by the end of the day). Oy. We ate so much, and it was all SO good! 

First we ate the risotto, and it was this delicious mushroom and apple concoction. Sounds crazy, right? So savory, so good. 

Then we ate the gnocchi, which actually tasted really fresh because the sauce is mostly zucchini and ricotta cheese (which was so fresh, it looked like whipped cream). Of course, the 3 gallons of olive oil did weigh it down a bit. This was the only dish that we got to help make. He called us up to roll out the dough in long sticks (and Mom, I was the fastest, all because of those years of breadstick rolling. I have you to thank for helping me get here). Then we cut them into little pillows, and then rolled them off the edge of a fork to give them little ridges (while saying in a thick Italian accent, "Shuuuuuut up."). Super good, but I might try to make the gnocchi again in a different sauce. Still, amazing. I love gnocchi so much, this was the one I was most excited to learn.

And lastly, we ate the homemade linguini in a red sauce. This was AMAZING but since we had already eaten so much, I could only get in a couple bites before I felt like I might asplode. He does this crazy thing where he puts whole cherry tomatoes into the sauce. That way, when you bite into one, it is so juicy that it cleanses your mouth, making you more prepared to savor every bite you take afterwards. 

And at the end, he gave us the recipes AND a certificate for finishing the course. Woot! We are graduates!

It was an awesome experience, only slightly tainted by some CRAZY drama. So whenever Chef Moreno wasn't explaining things, we were all just chatting and making conversation (everyone except the retired couple. They were pretty quiet). Well the young mom, I will call her Deborah, made a comment about how she wished the American education system emphasized learning a foreign language at a younger age. She mentioned that learning a language really gives kids a broader world view and helps them learn that we are not the only ones here, but that we can learn from all cultures and people. Then she said, "Sometimes when I travel, I'm ashamed of being an American." What she had meant was that Americans have a bad reputation for being really egotistical and self-important in Europe, and often unappreciative of the beauty of other cultures. She doesn't like being associated with THAT reputation. But she didn't say it quite right. Just then, the retired gentleman, I shall call him Dave, who hadn't spoken a word in the big group, suddenly sprung to life, and was infuriated that this woman would say she was ashamed of being American, especially in a foreign country. Mind you, we were all strangers to each other making polite conversation, but then in a matter of seconds, it turned into a very intense, angry atmosphere. We were all so shocked at Dave's outburst, that no one knew how to react, including Deborah. She finally tried to explain what she had meant and that she loves America, but Dave would not hear it. He just kept saying, "No! You are ashamed of being an American! And that is just disgraceful!" It was crazy. He finally stood up and asked to be taken back down the mountain, as he didn't want to be there anymore. After he and his wife left, we were just flabbergasted. Poor Deborah was so upset, since she had just been yelled at by a complete stranger. But as we were all trying to comfort her, she actually brought up a good point (which I think was very big of her), that Dave comes from a generation of men who watched their brothers and best friends die in the name of this country. To hear another person say they are ashamed of that country might feel to him like the sacrifices made were made in vain and were completely unappreciated. Even though that is not what she had meant at all, it does make his outburst have some kind of backing, although it was very sad and unfortunate to see it happen. It was just a bummer of a situation. Super crazy. It was definitely a reminder to me that we do not always understand what past has led each of us to where we are in life. You can't possibly understand why someone is the way they are, you have not lived their life. But above all, no matter who you are or where you come from, treating each other with respect is the only way we can peacefully combine all those different lives and histories. Love first. Learn from each other. Be kind. It makes the world a happier place.

So that was pretty much most of our day. Besides the drama, the cooking class was AWESOME! And did I mention delicious? 

That night, after we had time to digest just enough to have a little bit of room in our stomachs, of course we rushed to the gelaterie to get our gelato on. We walked up and down the lake shore, eating our gelato and playing the movie quote game (which I totally won) and then the theme music game (which I pathetically lost) and ended up back at our hostel where we had a nice game of ping pong before hittin the sac. All in all, it was a great day. 

Tomorrow, we hit Venice! Can't wait!!!!!


  1. Love all the post's, but this one brought on the tears (the Orvin curse). Beautifully stated, excited for the next chapter of "our" trip! We love you both!
    Denise and Grace

  2. I feel so bad for that lady! And, if you, being one of the most patriotic women I know, can understand what she meant, that's so sad that he was so offended. But it makes me sad when people say things like that, too. Cooking class sounds so awesome! I wish I could have met your teacher. He sounds awesome.