Written by Peregrine Travel Centre SA team member Adriana.
Ask anyone that knows me – and they’ll tell you I’m a big fan of a souvenir! Random magnets, coasters, shot glasses…you name it, i’ve got it…the tackier the better! However, as someone who loves to cook, one of my favourite souvenirs to take home with me from each trip is learning about the food of a destination. Food is one of my favourite things about travelling. Whether it’s wandering the local markets, tasting meals that are traditional to a particular destination or learning how produce such as olive oil, wine, coffee & chocolate is made in each country; all of these things are highlights to me when travelling and little memories that I take home with me from each trip.
One experience I love is being able to include a cooking class in my itinerary. Even if you’re not a great cook, it’s so much fun to learn from a local about how they prepare dishes and then be able to take a recipe home and replicate it to remind you of your travels.
A few years ago, in Italy, I was able to participate in a day long cooking experience in Tuscany. It began with a short walking tour in Florence, with a wander through the local market learning about the produce grown specifically in this part of Italy. Our lovely guide Olivia was born and raised in Florence and was able to give us a unique insight into life in this beautiful city. Once we finished at the markets, both sampling and buying ingredients for our lesson, we hopped onto a small bus and made our way through the Tuscan countryside.
We were greeted by sprawling vineyards, a spectacular view and a quaint old-style farmhouse straight from the scene of a movie. We were then introduced to Nonna Carmella, the owner of the property, and the lovely host of our cooking class. Nonna Carmella spoke only Italian, which was translated by our guide for those unable to understand. She spoke about her life, her experiences growing up and living in Tuscany and then delved into the menu for the day, explaining why she picked the traditional dishes to teach us.
Over the course of three hours we made bruschetta – tagliatelle with a ragu meat sauce – homemade pizza – traditional Tuscan roast pork with roast potatoes – and for dessert, tiramisu. We were all able to participate in different tasks, watch Nonna Carmella working her magic and learn the skills to make all these dishes from scratch.
The best part, all of us sitting down to a shared meal at the end of the day, with a glass of the local Chianti and enjoying all of our hard work.
Italians are passionate about food, it’s the focal point of every social gathering or special occasion in their lives, and there was no mistaking the passion and joy Nonna Carmella had as she was teaching us how to make dishes she’s prepared for many years. As an Australian with Italian heritage (all four of my grandparents were born in Italy), this was such a special experience and made me realise that my love of cooking and all things food is in my blood, passed down from generation to generation. We were each given a copy of the recipes we had learnt that day, and even now years later, I’ll make pasta from scratch or a Tiramisu using Nonna Carmella’s recipe and it will take me back to that day in Tuscany, admiring the countryside and make me feel like I am right back there in Italy.
I highly recommend a cooking class on your travels, no matter where you visit or what your cooking skills are like, it’s a souvenir that will stay with you forever.