I am by no means a chef. I once set a waffle on fire. Another time I made applesauce with salt instead of sugar.
Yet in Italy, I have been contrived to cook. Whilst living in an apartment in Bologna, I made a quick meal every day—whether a piadina in the pan or five-minute gnocchi with pre-made pesto. Eating holds great importance in Italy; the “How ‘bout this weather?” tripe of the States might be replaced by “How do you make this?” in Italy. Here, meals are meticulously prepared for entire families to enjoy together.
Over the dinner table, kitchen secrets are exchanged. Requests are passed for recipes and questions asked about grocery stores and appeals made for advice on certain dishes.
Special recipes and different staples are found in different regions and even in different towns; some foods are only made at certain times of the year or for certain festivals. Bologna is known for its ragù sauce and Ascoli Piceno for its olive ascolane; Trentini replace bread with polenta and lentil soup is eaten for luck at New Year’s.
I have impressed with chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, and guacamole, yet the immense cooking institution of Italy far outshines my meager offerings.
Living in Italy has opened my eyes to the several ways to prepare a zucchini or make red sauce and given me a little more confidence to taste new things (octopus or the inner lining of a cow’s stomach, for example) or attempt new recipes (a crostata seems simple, right?). But what is important to try.The true end product is the satisfaction of having done something all by yourself—no matter how small or burned it is.