love, food, italy
chianti hills, italy
for those of you who know me, you probably know or know of sharon too. she’s been my best friend for twenty years. sharon made her way over to visit me in paris and i was also lucky enough to celebrate her twenty-eighth birthday with her in italy!
throughout our time together and leading up to her birthday, i was kind of freaking out internally because i didn’t know what to get her for her birthday. i did put a lot of intermittent thought into this gift for a few weeks but had a hard time deciding if i should get her something in advance or if i should take a risk and figure it out along the way during our vacay in italy. fate was on my side because on our first day in florence, i asked her if she would be up to take a cooking class for her birthday and she was down! somehoww…two spots to a highly coveted cooking class magically opened up (we later found out that we happened to be browsing for classes while waiting for our hotel room to open up which was just fifteen minutes after the original group cancelled their spots due to bad weather). i couldn’t believe how destined we were to take this class, thank you god.
the next morning, we hopped on a train with six other students and one of our instructors, luca, and made our way to his home where we would be taking our class. on the ride over, luca shared stories about how he and his partner started teaching cooking classes while they both were navigating demanding careers in the fashion industry. all that trouble and risk in the name of doing something that brought them happiness. i shed a few inspiration-filled baby tears because these kinds of anecdotes hit me straight in the gut at this point in time of my life. the train ride along with luca’s narration was the perfect way to transition away from both the bustling city of florence and my shibuya crossing state of mind, and into the calm of luca and lorenzo’s home tucked away in the misty woods of the chianti hills.
being the last one in the group to enter the house i looked around, i marveled and squealed at the top of my lungs “YOU LIVE HERE? YOU ACTUALLY REALLY LIVE HERE?!?!”. i probably sounded a bit crazy but i wish you could somehow transport into their living room to see its handsome fireplace, their decorated christmas tree with panettone gift boxes and all, and that giant shelf of books lined against brick walls that once stood to shelter animals more than a hundred years ago. i could go on forever about all of the immaculate details of their home until you can understand how much of the hopeless romantic in me aspires to create a home filled with as much admiration for the sweet details in the way that they had.
the class was just as if not more thoughtfully prepared.
we spent the next few hours learning how to make panna cotta with lavender, chocolate, or coffee, ricotta and pecorino stuffed ravioli cooked in sage butter, and cauliflower pasta. lots of food, but on to the love. it was impossible not to admire how perfectly opposite luca and lorenzo were from each other but how they also perfectly complemented and supported one another throughout the class. to help further illustrate their opposite-ness, luca is from the south and is full of lively expression while lorenzo is from the north and has this understated comic within. while one taught, the other cleaned and prepped. when one couldn’t find the words, the other stepped in and sealed the thought with a bow. i also shed baby tears thinking about how beautiful their partnership was.
back to food (and love): lorenzo and luca both learned the trade of pasta making and cooking through helping their grandmothers and mothers out in the kitchen. watching the two of them intuitively make pasta starting with cracking an egg in the center of a mound of flour, to kneading and rolling out the dough, and then shaping the pasta made me think that no matter the culture, a hand that is taught with love remembers, and somehow will always find its way back to that love. and….i just sounded like a fortune cookie.
at the end of it, we enjoyed our pasta and panna cotta with the company of new friends we made from our six other classmates and instructors. it was almost like summer vacation bible study (aka vbs) camp when we had to part, exchanges of hugs and instagram handles to K.I.T.
what i took away (aside from my awesome certificate of participation in preparing traditional italian specialities that came with a wax stamp) were validations of real life examples of themes i’ve been tossing around in my head: taking big risks to do what you love, the impact that family culture and traditions have in shaping a someone, and lastly, valuing lifelong friendships and the different forms they take over time.
having been best pals for basically our entire existence, sharon and i exchanged laughs in disbelief during the moments that these themes hit home during our pasta making class. we ogled at god’s favor in our lives for the rest of the day. i went to sleep that night feeling so fulfilled; thankful for sharon being unapologetic and owning the special person that she is, our friendship that’s persisted through twenty years despite how different and yet the same we are, and the pact we made to goin’ HAM in year 28.