We signed up to take a cooking class in Lucca, Italy. I was a little skeptical because I thought there wouldn’t be much to learn about cooking in a general class filled with a bunch of goof-ball tourists who would soon be telling people about their cooking class in Italy in a tooth sucking way (including me) but I thought it would be fun for a day. And lunch was included, so yeah, I’m good.
It was held in a restaurant just outside of Lucca. There were 15 of us, mostly from the US but there was a couple from Israel, and a couple, one Filipino and the other Swedish, who were taking their two daughters on a 5 month tour of the world (I recall with great fondness the world tour my parents took me on when I was 12). There were also 2 annoying doctors who felt the need to inform all of us of that fact before the class began. One of them, an anesthesiologist, immediately cut 2 of her fingers with the extra sharp knife they let her use. The other (unclear of her specialty, though the 2 had gone to medical school together) was unable to figure out how to use the pasta machine despite the fact that the 2 pre-teenaged girls did not seem to have any problems with the equipment.
Our participation was somewhat limited. Basically we were allowed to chop and dice ingredients while an assistant wandered around barking “Non” at us periodically. The chef then made twenty some different sauces. And when he had finished those, he started on 4 different pasta doughs. When he opened the jar of squid ink to make the black pasta dough I was more than a little concerned because the smell of the gelatinous squid ink was overwhelming, and the fact that it was going to be used to make salmon filled ravioli made me queezy. We got to roll out the various doughs to make ravioli and linguini, those of us who could figure out the machinery, anyway. The black pasta dough itself did not smell like anything I’d normally consider eating, and once it was filled with the salmon and was sitting waiting to be boiled up I kept my distance from it as I might from a possibly-rabid dog in a corner of the room.
The chef, a borsht belt comedian type, in fact made some interesting sauces that I’d never experienced. A raw tomato and fresh mozzarella sauce processed in a blender with hot peppers, a luscious savory lemon cream, and a puttanesca that was right straight out of this world. I made the ham and mushroom sauce. Actually “made” might be too strong a word, “stirred” would be more accurate description of my collaboration but the sauce was really good.
When it came time to eat lunch the puttanesca did not make it to the table. Somehow it got transported into the kitchen and I imagine that the diners that evening ate the pasta and sauce I paid 85 euros to make. Chef’s got a good scam going on.
Against my better judgment I ate the squid ink pasta. It wasn’t half bad but I’d rather have had him abscond with that than the puttanesca.