I greatly appreciate the link between food and culture, but more importantly how that link is different for each culture. Most notably, I have realized that the link between food and culture is one many Americans take advantage of. As a sophomore in the college of agriculture (my former home), I had the opportunity to travel to Tuscany to learn about food production. This truly was a dream come true! I was going to spend 8 days in ITALY learning about food and culture…oh and eating!
As part of the class, we met weekly and researched history and production of the foods we would be seeing, this research was compiled into a presentation for the rest of the class (16 in all) to learn! We also had weekly Italian quizzes, something I wish I would have taken more seriously.
After a day of travel, we landed in Milan, where we would spend a day before heading to Florence. Florence was our base and from there we went out to see various producers including: parmigiano reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, parma hams, gelato, chocolate, and numerous vineyards. We attended two cooking schools in Florence; both were amazing but offered a different perspective on cooking. The first was very serious and professional while the second was much more laid back. While attending the second cooking school, we went to the market. The market gave me a great insight into the culture of Italy. There were fruits, vegetables, baked goods, seafood, and cuts of meat that I had never seen before. The seafood part wasn’t too surprising; I did grow up in Kansas after all!
What I really learned from the trips to the market (we also visited one in Venice), was food is a central part of Italian livelihood. In the US, few individuals sell things they grew or caught themselves. In addition, meals are eaten on the run and not enjoyed as they are in other countries. One of our meals lasted 3 hours, not because we ate that much, but because we were in conversation with one another and enjoying the atmosphere we were in!
My experience in traveling to Italy was the trip of a lifetime. I was able to learn so much and eat so many wonderful foods! I cannot wait for my next adventure abroad! Please feel free to share comments on places to see and foods to try!