There’s Always Something to Learn in the Kitchen
When traveling abroad, I often take time for a cooking class. When Robin and I were in Florence some years ago, she arranged an in-house day with a California woman named Judy Witts Francini, who had lived in Italy for nearly 20 years. (Her husband is Florentine.)
Exploring the Culinary Wonders of Florence
When we asked Judy what we’d be cooking that day, she responded, “Whatever looks good at the market.” With that decision made, we walked to the nearby Central Market. After a pleasant chat with the butcher, she selected a piece of veal and some fresh tuna. “We’re making Vitelllo con Tuna,” she announced gleefully.
As we foraged the grocery, we sampled cheeses, vinegars, olive oils, and wines before returning to her apartment.
A Handwritten Italian Cookbook
At the end of the session, Judy gave us each a copy of her Tuscan cookbook, that she had written by hand, had printed, and assembled with a spiral binding.
She told us that most of the recipes were passed on to her by word of mouth. No measurements. No cooking times or temperatures. She gave an example: “A typical recipe for tomato sauce would be, ‘Cover the bottom of the pot with oil, sauté garlic, add tomatoes, basil, and salt to taste and cook till done.’”
Judy’s cookbook was an attempt to translate such meager instructions into something a little more understandable. With a smile on her face, she said, “It’s for those of us not born Italian—but wanna be.”
She has since published Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen available at her food blog, Divina Cucina. One-to-three-day cooking classes are now offered as well as recipe videos. (Find Judy’s recipes on her blog.)
More Cooking Classes
During the pandemic, Robin took a Zoom class from a chef in Spain. Each of the eight participants made a paella in their own kitchen. It was amusing to see how differently each dish looked even though they were all using the same recipe and ingredients.
Cooking Fun in St. Louis
Of the many cooking classes offered in St. Louis, I’ve taken several sessions from Kitchen Conservatory and also from Dierberg’s School of Cooking. Neither the instructors, participants, techniques, nor recipes were intimidating. The Conservatory classes I took were hands on. The one at Dierberg’s was a demonstration by the chef.
The good part about a cooking class is that you get to eat at the conclusion.
Freda Shen says
What a great idea, taking a cooking class in each country you visit. My sister and her husband take a language class and stay in-home for a few days in the countries they visit, predominantly Spanish-speaking. However, they are also excellent and ardent cooks, and I think this idea may tickle their fancies as well. Thanks for the thought, which I will pass on.