A year in Italy
In a sentence that’s so obnoxious even I’m revolted - a few years back, I lived in Italy for a year while studying my masters in food culture and communications. And yes, it was just as wonderfully delicious as it sounds.
I have always felt a strong connection to Italian food – the spirit, the tradition, the passion and the simplicity. It is a culture I wanted to immerse myself in, so the day I discovered that I could study a course about food in Italy was the day I started to plan my year aboard.
In 2013 I packed my bags for Bra, a small town in Piedmont, Italy’s northwestern region, famous for insanely eggy pastas, prized truffles, vitello tonnato, bollito misto, plus rivers of pedigreed red wines like Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. It is also the birthplace of Slow Food - a movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986 in response to the spread of fast food and the hustle and bustle of modern life.
My course at the University of Gastronomic Sciences was comprehensive, covering topics such as food law, sustainable agriculture, food philosophy, food tourism, anthropology, chemistry, sensory analysis, food history, medieval food, food photography, and food writing. We studied the making of cheese, wine, beer, cured meats and chocolate – and had exams in them all. I travelled to Friuli, Valtellina, Calabria, Tuscany, Spain and Devon to meet with producers and farmers that lived and breathed Slow Food. My class was made up of 19 fellow students ranging from 23 to 52 years old from 12 different countries. We shared ideas, recipes, food and thoughts from our cultures, all of which gave me a deeper understanding of the food systems that existed around the world.
I won’t rattle on about how incredible my year away was or how many bowls of pasta, cones of gelato or glasses of red wine I drunk because such an undertaking would induce me to write a doorstop novel, but my year away dramatically altered the way I cook, eat and think about food. It made me take a step back and appreciate what is around me. And, most importantly, it made me realise how important it was to be an enthusiast in life.
So here I am now grabbing my passion with both hands – I am completely absorbed in the world of food and loving every single moment.