This week’s post comes to us from the ACCENT Florence Study Center, where Programs Coordinator Lilia Lamas tells us about the culinary adventures our Florence students are embarking on, and what Italy’s incomparable cuisine can teach us about Italian language and culture.
Some of the most talked about and photographed things while studying abroad in Italy are students’ wonderful culinary adventures. What did you have for your first Italian dinner? What gelato flavors have you tried? What pastries are your favorite? How do you prefer your caffé? What pasta dishes do you like best? Have you had the bistecca?
Italian cuisine is well-known around the world, but living in Italy, cuisine becomes an intense multi-sensory experience of divine things like mozzarella di buffala (fresh mozzarella), freshly made pasta, and delicious pastries with your cappuccino in the morning. While studying abroad in Florence, students not only have the opportunity to experience Italian cuisine independently, but also by learning new recipes and techniques through class visits and activities.
One of these is a Pizza Making Class with the Bianco brothers of Pizzeria O’Scugnizzo in Florence. O’Scugnizzo is a certified authentic Neapolitan pizzeria in the heart of Florence’s oltrarno quarter, just a few steps from Piazza del Carmine. The Bianco brothers are fourth generation Neapolitan pizzaiuoli and teach the traditional way of making pizza. Francesco Bianco explains, “We use a sourdough (lievito madre) that has been in our family for generations, and let the dough rise for 24 hours.” Each student shapes the dough (as Francesco says, “you must gently massage it”), and then adds each topping with care. The pizza is then baked in a 400-degree Celsius brick oven for a few minutes and eccola! The pizza is ready!
Another culinary adventure students embark upon in Florence is the cooking class at Apicius (a local Culinary Education school). With an integrated approach to cooking, both in practice and in language, this activity engages students’ stomachs and their minds. Students prepare a 3-course “pranzo” lunch that includes a pasta dish made from scratch, a second entrée, and a dessert. Before the lesson, students learn culinary vocabulary to help them while they cook.
This Fall, one of the professors of the UC Mediterranean Food program, Prof. Sergio Rufini, enthusiastically encouraged his students to try traditional Florentine dishes that have very interesting histories, ingredients and seasonality.
So dear readers, when in Italy (and, in particular, in Florence) please try at least one of these dishes: la ribollita, papa al pomodoro, peposo, lampredotto, trippa alla fiorentina, and bistecca alla fiorentina to name a few. For those with a sweet tooth, here are a few traditional Tuscan sweets: pan con l’uva, schiacciata alla fiorentina, and cenci for carnevale.
For those of you who would like to try some of these delights at home, here are recipes for pappa al pomodoro and pan con l’uva.
~Lilia Lamas, ACCENT Florence
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