Quanto amara è dolce per dire addio.
WHAT I LEARNED
At the beginning, more so, last semester during class scheduling, my girlfriend, Annmarie Fabbi, talked me into taking a course dealing with Italian foods and culture with her favorite teacher, Lucia Hannau. I was a bit skeptical about it at first because I am completely unfamiliar with Italian. I went into this course completely unknowledgeable about anything Italian and came out of the course knowing so much about Italian food, culture, geography, music, art, and everything in between. I have had such a good time in this class learning about different regions, foods, and experiencing different methods of learning about different topics through presentations, discussion, and blogging.
This semester has been a joyous adventure through each region of Italy. At the beginning, when we were split up into sections, I was a bit confused on what the learning style was for the course. I was unfamiliar with the topic, and being surrounded by students who seemed to understand and have an amplified interest in Italy was a little different for me since I did not know anything about it, besides that my girlfriend has Italian origins. The most important thing that I learned this semester was how important food and wine is to Italy and its inhabitants. The quality ingredients and the time put into the meals that are created was something that I would have never dreamed of knowing. It is bewildering to learn how much time and energy is put into food in Italy to make family and friends feel comfortable and happy. That is something that one does not usually experience in America. Being apart of this course made me feel like I was slightly apart of something larger and learning about different preparations, recipes, food creations, and ingredients made me learn that cooking is a form of art to every person in Italy opposed to here where only a small amount of individuals have that appreciation for food and the quality and time that is put into making food taste and look fantastic. I have learned so much about food and I am so happy that I decided to take the course.
Another learning experience that I thought was really great was the presentations over the different regions in Italy. I had no idea there were so many different regions, and how each region was different in its own special way—whether that be because of the food, wine, people, art, music—it showed that all of Italy works together as one country to supply each region with different things. I know that we talked about how Italy does not import many things, and that is because of the intricate workings of each region. The differences between the north and the south surprised me quite a bit. Trentino, our regional presentation, was shocking in its own right because of how much it was influenced by Germany and Austria. Those areas because of takeovers, warfare, and overall distance from the areas influenced many of the northern regions of Italy—I thought that was neat how each region plays such a different part in the country. I learned that polenta is a major crop in the south and that is does not grow in the north. The northern mountains cause a completely different climate and weather patterns than that of the southern regions. I would have had no idea about any of those things if not for each presentation of each region in Italy. The cultural differences in each region were also neat because of how different each area was influenced and what was surrounding it.
I also thought the readings were very beneficial to what we were learning throughout the semester. I thought that reading Pinocchio was so interesting because I never realized that is was an Italian story. I guess I never really imagined it being so morbid and dark like it was either. I would have never imagined reading Eat, Pray, Love either. I thought that our “Bible” book was extremely useful not only for the presentations, but for class discussions as a whole. The articles online also helped put things into perspective when class discourse took place between classmates and instructors.
SPARKING MY INTERESTS
Throughout the semester, there were many things that I found interesting and some things that I found very hard to believe. Since I am in college and I am young, the whole aspect of partying and nightlife is something that I experience almost every weekend. I found it really interesting that Italy has an almost nonexistent party scene—that partying is almost frowned upon in a way because it is embarrassing and shameful to get drunk. Learning that Italians basically only drink wine and certain grain alcohol was a shock to me. Since they only drink wine at meals and casually with family or friends, it is not used to simply get drunk. It is used to enhance a meal or used to socialize with close ones. About two months ago, Annmarie and I found out that the cast of The Jersey Shore was going to Italy, and if it was not for this class, we would not have known how strange it is going to be for them since partying is not a huge idea in Italy and that is basically all they do on the show. This course made me realize that not every country is like America in that alcohol is served almost everywhere and adolescents strive to be twenty-one.
I also thought the fashion side of Italy was interesting. Many people in America do not care what they look like and will go out in public sometimes in the most ridiculous things. It is interesting that Italians always look their best no matter what they are doing. It sort of reminds me of celebrities, not knowing when pictures are going to be taken of them, so they must look their best at all times. Italians do not wear sandals or running shoes in public, which is something that I thought was very peculiar because almost everyone in America does that. Knowing that Italians would rather own one piece of extremely good quality clothing compared to an abundance of cheap clothing simply shows how different America and Italy really are with different ideas.
During the regional presentations, two regions really stood out to me and caught my eye—giving me hopes and dreams of one day visiting those places. Those two places are Portofino and Sardinia. Both of these places are amazing. The views are so beautiful and the buildings and so dreamy that it seems almost impossible for it to be real. I am in love with the clear waters of Sardinia and I want so badly to live in a small house in Portofino by the ocean. Both of these places are so picturesque that I could just look at pictures for hours and not get bored with how these places compare to other regions in the world. I would move instantly if I knew Italian, had a place to live, a career, and someone to come with me because I would be so lonely!
As I mentioned prior, Pinocchio was the most interesting read for me. I would not have thought to read it in an Italian food/culture course. Before reading the book, I had only seen the animated Disney version and the live version, which featured Usher as one of the characters. I liked the movies, and I thought the book was very different from either of those. A little darker, more grownup in a way, the book gave a darker side to the fantasy tale that Disney produced. I thought that the articles were really relevant to what we were talking about in class and I thought it was a good idea to incorporate those into class discussion and topics that went into student blogs.
I would say the movies were my favorite form of learning about food. Being able to physically see what was being created with different ingredients made it all the more real for me. Particularly, Big Night and Dinner Rush were my two favorites. Big Night made me realize the most about the quality Italians put into their foods and the passion that comes along with being a chef. Culture differences can make it hard for people to remain loyal to their ways of life, but within this movie, Primo, the older brother and head chef, was stone cold when it came to his food and his ingredients. He always wanted the best ingredients and he always wanted to serve the best food—without making any sacrifices. This movie showed how two Italian immigrants face an America world full of cheap thrills, fast foods, and entertainment and popularity that can keep a business thriving. Dinner Rush, which took a different approach to the idea, still produced images of an old Italy, proper ingredients, and family and friends that like to enjoy time with each other. It gave a different approach to the idea of food and the company that surrounds it.
WHAT I WILL NEVER FORGET
There are a few specific things that I will not forget about this class. Firstly, how this course sparked my interest in cooking more than just frozen foods, and how fun it can be to indulge in ingredients and create something with your own two hands. Annmarie and I have been cooking so much for each other this semester and I think that comes in direct correlation with our Italian foods class. Every time we go out to eat at a restaurant, we always talk about the food, how it was made, and what Lucia would say about the meal, depending on what restaurant we go to. It feels good to be able to cook your own food and it actually taste good. It makes me feel like I am growing up and is able to now fend for myself when it comes to cooking my own foodstuffs. This class has not only been entertaining, but it has been informative on all kinds of levels.
Annmarie and I talk about this course and its students and instructors all the time outside of class. I always talk about Betty Cook and how she had to teach me for roughly four semesters through Portuguese and how I was so bad at it and how funny it is that she is auditing for the class. We always talk about the students in the class and the presentations and how the food makes us feel older when we try to make something. Taking pictures from Chopped Tuesday and putting them on our blogs has strictly been because of the class. I do not mind going to class three days a week because it is enjoyable.
Not only has the class been fantastic, but also I have to say that you, Lucia, have been such an amazing instructor. Not only have you made the class informative, but also you are so funny and put such a nice spin on everything. Being from Italy and being able to say everything with real experience on what you are saying makes everything so much better and real. Annmarie adores you, and I like you so much as a person, especially after only knowing you for a semester. You are fair, intelligent, have a wonderful fashion sense, and you know how to keep a class of forty students locked in.
My vision of Italy and Italian culture has changed completely. As I mentioned before, I went into this course knowing barely anything about Italy and Italian food and culture. I have obtained so much information that I can apply to real-life situations from this course and I really like that feeling—that feeling of coming out of a class knowing that what you learned will stay with you for a long time. Everything from the food, culture, art, music, regions, commodities, people, places; it was all so new to me and I feel good knowing that what I learned from this course was real. I was not instructed out of a textbook lecture-style, but it was a discussion-based class lead by a teacher actually from Italy and everything that was said and taught was real. I appreciate that the most about the course. Everything that was portrayed was something that kept the class engaged and allowed them to express themselves in different ways via the food blog and the presentations. I gained a huge understanding of Italy and Italian culture and I life so much that I apply what I have learned in this class to my everyday situations.
It has been such a good semester in your class, Lucia. I wish you the best when you return back to Italy and I hope you have a wonderful return home.