This Wednesday we finally got started on actually painting frescos in my fresco class. The first couple of weeks were filled with theory study and a visit to the Santa Croce church, which contains some of the oldest frescos in Florence, done by Giotto (a contemporary and friend of Dante) and his students. The theory was quite interesting and covered your basic art history as well as extending into chemistry and a bit of anthropology. Granted, fresco emerged from the brightest the world had to offer, so it’s no surprise that we jumped from subject to subject when discussing its history. Apparently, the oldest discovered frescos occurred in Greece, though few remain due to some chemical composition or another. I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details.
In any case, I was terrified to start. Fresco kinda does this thing. Once you put paint on the plaster, it stays there. Like, forever. There’s a reason all those Egyptian tombs still have crap on the walls. It’s because the pigment is literally absorbed into the walls. You mess up, you scrape a hole in your wall and start again. No pressure. Oh, and you have to finish whatever plaster you put up, otherwise it dries with nothing on it and it doesn’t come down. Again, don’t worry about it.
Luckily, we’re not graded on masterful ability or genius renditions. Just simple, “Replicate this as well as you can with the time you’re given.” I think our professor would’ve been pleased with us if we’d just spread our plaster flat and that’s it. We all managed to get pretty far along, but with only four students, Titziano (my prof) didn’t have any difficulty getting around to help us when we had questions.
Food class was just as scrumptious as the last one with a brand new menu and a whole bunch of neat little tricks. Granted, I can’t remember many of them now (it’s been a few days) but I wrote them down somewhere and I’ll find those notes…eventually. Anyway, despite having come prepared (read: having eaten prior to class to prevent fainting from starvation), I still got a little light-headed and had to sit down for a little while so I wouldn’t pass out. Must’ve been heat or low blood sugar or something. Regardless, I felt much better after we got started with the eating part of the class.
For our antipasti, we made Schiacciata al Olio, which is a form of focaccia, and I didn’t know that this particular dough is the same used in pizza. We’re essentially given a bundle of different recipes every time we learn something in this class, since a lot of things cross over in different recipes. (All pictures are up in the slide show) We made two versions, a stuffed focaccia con cipolle (focaccia with onions) and a simple focaccia with toppings. Mixing everything up was fun, since we did it straight on the table as opposed to in a bowl. You know how on food shows, the really “skilled” guys use their fingers to mix an egg into a volcano pile of flour on a flat surface? Yeah, I can do that now. Not that it’s phenomenally difficult. Just cool.
Primi piatti was Pasta e Ceci (thick soup with chickpeas and pasta). To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that chick peas and garbanzo were one and the same. I thought they were completely different. Goes to show you how having international experience can actually embarrass you in front of people. By far, though, this has been my favorite dish that we’ve made. I love garbanzos and this soup was absolutely delicious with puree and chunks of the beans threaded with rosemary, garlic, and spicy peperoncino flakes. I could have done without the pasta, but it was a nice addition, something extra to chew on hidden in the goop. Delicious goop, mind.
Here comes the more interesting part of the meal: secondo. There’s nothing exciting about petto di pollo al limone (chicken in lemon sauce), but there’s something to be said about the infamous Melanzane all Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan). Up until this past Wednesday, I’d never had eggplant before and heard horror stories from both my parents about slimy textures and a bizarrely bland taste. All in all, it didn’t sound very appetizing, and while the plant itself was pretty cool to look at, I wasn’t exactly impressed once the dish came out of the oven. The lemon chicken was very good, breaded somewhat like the chicken we had last year in Bracciano during the summer (Mom, you’ll remember), but I simply couldn’t bring myself to think anything other than, “Weird,” after trying the eggplant parm. My parents were right: it’s slimy.
Dessert definitely came as a surprise in the form of Salame Dolce, a sort of trick desert that looks exactly like an actual log of salame once rolled. Granted, it’s like the worst thing for you with straight up sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and dessert wine composing the majority of the “filling,” then you have some animal crackers thrown in just for fun. After dousing it in powdered sugar, you have a genuine false salame roll. Apparently it’s very popular come Mardi Gras time, so I’ll be looking forward to loads of it next spring!
Again, if anyone’s interested in the recipes, let me know and give my your email addresses! I can’t send it if I don’t know where to send it to!
On the way back to my apartment post-food coma, my friend Daniel and I ran into a crowd of people watching a street performer dressed like Charlie Chaplin. I have to say that if he’d done many of the things in his performance back in the States, he’d have been strung up for harassment. Of course, that made it all the more entertaining! Video footage up shortly!