It is not always necessary to leave your home city to experience or at least get a taste for a foreign culture. I am naturally spoiled for opportunities in London but even something as simple as going for a cooking class, which you can do in most cities, can make you feel like you are leaving your daily routine and exposing yourself to new ideas, new flavours.
A dear friend of mine knows very well my love for food and Italy and gave me as a birthday gift “A night in Napoli”. No, it didn’t require cruelsome queues in airports, carrying suitcases or getting through Italian bureaucracy. It only required me to walk over to Marylebone where La Cucina Caldesi, Italian cooking school, exists. Tucked away in the mews round the back from the main restaurant emerges a wonderful Italian farmhouse where the Caldesi Family has been teaching Londoners the tricks of Italian cookings since 2005.
My worries of showing up to the class on my own vanished with the warm welcome from the cookery school’s staff and fellow students. Cooking classes do seem to be something that you do as a couple. A wife wanting her husband to take part in the kitchen duties, a shared passion for Italian food, an evening out which is different from just sitting down to a readily made table? My fellow students motivations may have been diverse but I was ready to learn how to cook!
Cooking with Stefano Borella, one of the Caldesi’s chefs, made cooking feel like the easiest thing in the world. As a contrast to my tiny, crammed kitchen at home, at Caldesi space was in abundance with all tools and ingredients laid out for us along wooden tables. For three hours we chopped, rolled, peeled, cooked and baked and managed incredibly a lot in a short space of time. Starters included mozzarella and tomato pizzas, bruschetta, deep friend mozzarella toasties and octopus salad. Main course was potato gnocchi with Neapolitan ragu with beef or classic tomato sauce and Neapolitan tart to finish off the feast. The best part – I can do these all home as well!
As cooking classes often cater for most types of cooks, from novices to slightly more experienced ones, you should not expect one evening to turn you into a Michelin start chef. The class is great entertainment, hearing stories about a new culture and increasing your repertoir of dishes. There is still an element of the chef taking care of the tricky stuff, such as knowing when the octopus is cooked or how much spices to add to the stew. I guess it is also to ensure that we are left with something edible at the end of the evening.
Walking home after the class, I was very pleased about my different Saturday night. Not only I had learned new skills in the kitchen, I had met interesting people and learned new perspectives to Italian lifestyle. I was also carrying souvenirs – a piece of Neapolitan tart for my boyfriend, all handmade by me. My smugness may have slightly diminished after an attempt to cook octopus at home, with somewhat more rubbery results. Oh well, all new capabilities take time to embed.
(c) Nordic Odyssey, all rights reserved