The Birds of Change Flew By

There is a type of blackbird here that travels in large flocks. And like a school of fish in the sky; they turn and dive in unison – and they squawk in unison.  You’ll see them coming, silent but flappin’ away and then all of a sudden there is a cacophony of bird-speak, then silence as they veer off out of sight.  The local lore is when you see them; it will rain the next day.  I haven’t recorded any data, but they show up a lot and it rains a lot – could be true. 

Meanwhile, that flock of birds must have flown over this cuckoo’s nest because things have changed around here.  It started about a week or so ago.  We had a nice day.  Chef didn’t yell at anyone.  Then we had several days off and we didn’t hear any yelling.  Then we all went on a field trip and chef drove in a separate car and we didn’t hear any yelling.  Then we came back and got to work – and we didn’t hear any yelling.  I know it could all go back to the way it was at any moment, but it does feel like there has been a real change.  Thank God.

I am on the downhill side of this cooking school with about 5 weeks to go. The amount of new information has slowed as we actually prepare ourselves the things we have seen.  We are about to have another menu execution – see “You Couldn’t Write This Script” and you will understand when I say that I faced this week with trepidation.  However, good ole TL and I are not on the same team and it is like a dream without him.  I hear he hasn’t changed a bit, but at least he is not my leader and the Team Leader of their group is corralling him in.

Without the craziness I fear my blog will lack the gallows humor of previous posts, but I can share with you a few of the things I am learning. 

  • I have learned that I am a whole person separate and apart from my friends and family.  I miss them, but I am whole without them.  (I wasn’t really sure the first few weeks)
  • I have learned that I do not have to be in control of the situation to be calm in the situation.
  • I know a great deal more about food and cooking then I thought I did.
  • That my mother could have taught this course with the vast amount of knowledge she has about food and shared with me. And, yes, I have told her – every time I talk to her because, for mom, it is new information each time.
  • That I like having a roommate and I am tired of living alone.
  • That Italians like to cook their vegetable to DEATH and most green things are bitter as hell.
  • That Italians, who live in a beautiful country, speak a lovely language, and have a lively and proud past, are always grumpy looking.  Getting a smile out of an Italian on the street requires serious effort, however wearing a ridiculous hat at Carnivale seemed to do the trick.

Carnivale with the Troop

  • There is no food that I miss from home.
  • I would not go out of my way to cook goat meat.


On our field trip we saw some amazing things in a town called Matera in Basilicata.  There are caves there that people have been living in continuously since the dawn of time until 1968.  The town grew upon itself over the centuries and is a scramble of building materials, natural rock and lots of stairs, none of which conform to the rise and run standards of the USA. 

We also visited a town in Pulgia, Altamura, which means “high walls”.  A local showed us a chunk of the original wall in which there was a stone plaque depicting a leg.  He explained that once, another people tried to conquer Altamura and after their unsuccessful attempt their leader was tied to four horses and pulled apart.  There was a plaque on each of the four walls of the town with a corresponding body part to commemorate the event.  I have decided that when I attack, it won’t be Altamura. 

Hearth Baked - Bottom Crust like a ROCK

After that history lesson we visited an ancient bread bakery.  The oven was huge and the peels were probably 20 feet long. The proprietor said no pictures and that somehow set off the chef.   He purchased a heavy loaf of the very crusty bread and we sampled it outside the shop.   Still annoyed that we couldn’t take pictures he took it out on the bread, at least at the beginning.  It was still a steaming mass of golden dough but chef insisted it was raw and sharpened that point by demonstrating that he could make a ball out of the warm dough – then he threw a piece of it in the street and waited for a car to run over it, then he wadded up a piece and threw it at the bakery door, all amidst lively commentary about the genealogy of the baker.   At that point Kristine, Jason and I strolled off in another direction, embarrassed to be seen with the group.  We were wandering down a street when a voice came from behind me shouting, “Where are you from?”  I figured someone had seen me with the troop of buffoons and was about to give me a tongue lashing, but gratefully,  it was a local who had lived in Ireland for 5 months, spoke pretty good English and wanted to tell me about it. I am guessing my attire gave me away as a tourist. 

It was about then that we discovered a pasticceria, a pastry shop, and went in for a caffeine/sugar high to forget our troubles.  What a beautiful shop with gorgeous pastries. We saw a dozen certificates on the wall proclaiming completion of various programs and assumed they belonged to the owner.  We relaxed in a beautiful setting and when we were about to leave a thin young man with the fashionable 3 day beard came out and greeted us.  We discovered he was the pastry chef and I asked if I could be his student.  He waved me in.  He is not on the list of places that chef has available but it was nice to think of it.

Sbraciola (?) Served with Grappa

Ciao for now,


Darned if I know- but beautiful

Chocolate Heaven

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