Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How It All Began, Exactly Five Years Ago Today ...

I thought that I would take a break from the recipes and reviews.  The reason is that today -- September 14, 2011 -- is a milestone of sorts for me.   Exactly five years ago to the day, I was on a plane crossing the Atlantic bound for Bologna, the capital city of Emilia-Romagna in Italy.  I had booked a nine day vacation through the Smithsonian Institution.  The vacation was aptly called the "Joys of the Italian Table." Along with about two dozen other tourists, I had the opportunity to learn about the foods and wines of Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.  The tour leader was Francesco Ricchi, a Tuscan born chef who owns one of my favorite restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area ... Cesco Trattoria in Bethesda, Maryland.

The importance of this five-year milestone cannot be understated.  Before taking this trip, I actually did not care about cooking.  I worked in a restaurant to make money for college.  I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up the kitchen hierarchy until I was working the sauté station.  The problem was that it was my second job.  I had a forty-hour a week office job and this cooking job was something I did in the evenings and on the weekends to earn extra money.  It was a horrible job.  I made anywhere from $5.00 to $5.50 per hour, working several hours per shift in a hundred degree kitchen.  After working at this restaurant, I did not want to have anything to do with cooking.

That was until my "Joys of the Italian Table" vacation. I had the opportunity to see a completely different side of food and cooking.  I was able to develop an appreciation of the ingredients, the cooking or winemaking processes and, perhaps most importantly, the significance of food and wine to the Emilian-Romagnan and Tuscan cultures.  

Put simply, if I had never experienced the "Joys of the Italian Table," I would not have thought about cooking as a hobby and a means of relaxation.  If I had not started cooking, I would have never cultivated an interest in exploring the history of foods and their importance to cultures around the world.  And, perhaps most importantly, I would have never started this blog.

I could write a very long blog post detailing everything I ate and drank, as well as all of my experiences during that trip.  I can still recall almost all of them vividly in my mind, and, many of those experiences have been incorporated into past blog posts and will be incorporated into future blog posts.  For this post, I decided to use my editing skills and put together a short video piece from the pictures that I took during the trip.  These pictures tell a story of my experiences. I added a little dramatic music, Andrea Bocelli's O Sole Mio, because I thought the music was appropriate for the impact that this one vacation had on my life.  (And, yes, I purchased the song prior to using it in the video.) 

So, without further ado, the Joys of the Italian Table as I experienced it:  

That trip was the start of a very long culinary journey for me.  Since that time, I have rekindled my interest in cooking, as well as a desire to learn not just about other cooking, but also about cuisines and cultures. I have begun to share what I have learned, both in terms of cooking and cuisines, through this blog. That journey may seem slow at times (especially when it comes to the Around the World in Eighty Dishes or planning future Iron Chef Nights), but I am taking my time to learn and share as much as I can.  I look forward to all the new experiences to come, as well as all of the dishes I will make. 

I hope that everyone who visits this blog enjoys reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them.  Speaking of which, I think it is time to get back to those posts.  Well, until next time ...


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