It seems like yesterday that we were arriving in Siena, and it is already time for my final blog post! Just like the two previous weeks, this week was jam-packed with lectures, field trips and cooking lessons. Lella has taught us even more traditional Tuscan recipes that I’m excited to try out once I get home. However, I’ll probably need a good two weeks before looking at Italian food again. We had the opportunity to visit an artisanal cheese maker on one of our day trips. It was one of the coolest and smelliest things I have ever experienced. We had to wear booties to protect our shoes from the cheese water. We then journeyed to Fattoria Poggio Alloro, a agrotourismo farm with the most breathtaking view of the Tuscan countryside. While there, we toured the facility’s vineyard and saw the farm animals. Of course, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without another phenomenal meal. On our way back, we were able to go into the town, San Gimignano. The small city was full of old towers, and Pip, our IES coordinator, gave us a fascinating tour of their duomo. On Thursday, we were able to see science and cooking combine in a molecular gastronomy class. We used liquid nitrogen to make several dishes and even smash frozen roses.
This week we had a three-day weekend and took the opportunity to visit Rome! We did our best to see as much of the city as possible, and needless to say, our feet are sore. We were able to take a tour of the Colosseum at night and go underground. It was really cool to learn all the history and see the Wonder of the World with about 100 people instead of the usual 60,000 people who visit during the day. This, along with a trip to the Vatican, were definitely my favorite parts. We also made our wishes in the Trevi Fountain, even though it’s currently under construction.
In our final week we will be focusing on our final projects, in which we create our own food-related experiment. I’m excited to put all of the knowledge I’ve gained into one final product. Throughout our trip, we have been fortunate to visit so many places and learn so much more than I could ever cover in this blog. This was made possible from the generosity of Jamie Small and the Jockey John Robinson Endowed First Year Seminar Grant, which allowed us to take the trip as first-year students and see so much more while in Italy. On behalf of the entire class, I would like to thank Mr. Small for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I would also like to thank Professor France and IES for putting together such an amazing month of fun and science.
This course will be offered again next Spring Term for all class years and I highly encourage everyone to consider taking it. You’ll eat more food and learn more science then you can ever imagine.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you in America!
Exploring Italy, One Bite at a Time
What a whirlwind this week has been! It is so hard to believe that our time here is almost halfway over. This past weekend we traveled to Florence, about an hour’s bus ride from Siena, to attend an international gelato festival. We climbed all the way to the top of the Piazza del Michelangelo to experience some of the world’s best frozen treats. We each had six cups of gelato, including Nutella flavored, and voted for our favorite. We rushed back to our bus happily stuffed. We were able to follow up this experience with a tour of a local gelateria. We learned the process of making gelato with fresh ingredients and were able to apply the chemistry we have learned with Professor France. We all have said we need a break from gelato, but each night you’ll still find us buying another scoop. We even celebrated Professor France’s birthday with some gelato on the Piazza Del Campo. I think I have decided my favorite flavor is stracciatella, which is basically chocolate chip – only better.
My favorite event this week was our day trip to Valdorcia through the Tuscan countryside. We loaded a private bus early in the morning and made stops to a coffee roaster, an olive oil production site, and a honey farm. At the coffee roaster, we were able to taste freshly roasted and brewed espresso, which definitely had us buzzing the rest of the day. The olive oil site focuses on agriturismo, meaning they are a farm that must produce at least 60% of the food that they serve in their restaurant. After we were shown a one-thousand-year-old olive tree, we sat down for a five-course meal with their fresh ingredients. Lunch included an antipasto plate, two types of pasta, a meat course, dessert, and of course, lots of their delicious olive oil. We each left with one of their signature bottles of extra virgin olive oil.
If any of you have seen the Bee Movie with Jerry Seinfeld, please let me inform you that it is all a lie. At the honey farm, we learned all about bees and honey production. One of our students actually keeps bees and was able to clarify some information that was hard to translate. We tasted many types of honey, and the group seemed to really like the honey made from pollen of the lime tree. We all bought our favorite honeys before getting back on the bus to return to Siena.
We have had lectures this week on coffee and tea, breads and baked goods. These continue to embrace chemistry in a creative way and complement our tours perfectly. Professor France also does a wonderful job of making lecture interesting, with funny clip art and food samples. Lella, our cooking instructor, has taught us how to make even more delicious meals, including the best lasagna I have ever had (sorry, mom). This weekend I am planning to stay in Siena to explore the city, work on our lab reports, and plan our trip to Rome next weekend. I am basically planning the trip around the Lizzie McGuire Movie. Each day here has brought new experiences, and I can’t wait to see what is next!
You Can Never Be Overfed or Overeducated
A car, three planes, a bus and a taxi later, I made it to beautiful Siena, Italy in almost one piece. We have been in our temporary home for only a few days, but things are already in full swing. While the weather hasn’t been very Instagram-worthy, we have not let that stop us from taking full advantage of the city and all this Spring Term Abroad has to offer. My raincoat got great use as we did a walking tour the first night here, ending with a delicious four-course dinner with our IES coordinator, Pip.
We learn about food, we make food, and we eat food. We have already had three lectures with Professor France on the science behind food, covering eggs, cheese and fruits and vegetables. These lectures give us the background information needed to understand the chemical processes we explore during our cooking lessons and field trips. A big theme this week has been pasta. Fun fact: Siena is known for their pici pasta, and I now know how to make it! Our first full day here we met Lela, our cooking instructor, and she taught us how to make our first four-course meal. During the lesson, I was able to make the sauce that went over the pici each of us prepared by hand. This was definitely a struggle for some of us! However, some thought their noodles were molto bene. I could write an entire blog on just the food we consume during this class, but trust me–it was all absolutely delicious.
On Wednesday we got to visit a local pasta factory, Mundo Del Pasta. They are locally owned and supply many of Tuscany’s restaurants with pasta. They are even being highlighted in the 2015 Milan Expo. We were shown how pici, ravioli and several other homemade pastas were created. They allowed us to taste the different noodles and sent us on our way with ingredients for a progressive dinner. On each adventure we go on, Professor France is there to explain the chemical processes that allow the creation of the foods we are seeing.
For dinner Wednesday, we had pizza on the Piazza Del Campo, which is in the center of Siena. The piazza has been very useful for me in finding my way around, as I have no sense of direction. We are doing our best to assimilate into the Italian lifestyle, which has translated to consuming an overabundance of espresso and gelato. This weekend we plan to attend a gelato festival in Florence and explore the city. Be sure to read next week’s blog to hear about that and the other amazing things that we learn and EAT abroad!