Italian chefs in the making: Honors course focuses on Italy’s culinary culture

(Courtesy of Roger Coda)
(Courtesy of Roger Coda)

 

CURTIS LORD

Special to The Leader

Fifteen students are on their way to becoming the next Italian master chefs.

Italian Food Culture in Practice is a specialty course that was offered to students in Fredonia’s Honors Program this semester. The curriculum, taught by Chiara De Santi, the coordinator of the minor in Italian studies, is designed to draw together cross-cultural, historical, linguistic, social, political and economic contexts of the country.

The students have spent the past few months learning about the culture, history and gastronomy of Italy. In addition, the class has had the opportunity to try its hand at cooking traditional Italian and Italian-American dishes, ranging from homemade pesto sauce to dessert couscous. Every class consists of a learning segment, going over a new recipe and then testing the students on cooking said recipe.

“The end results tend to vary,” senior biology major Chelsea May said, laughing. “Some are hits and some are misses, but we always do our best. We’re here to learn.”

De Santi, an Italian born-and-raised citizen herself, proposed the course to the University because she thinks that Italian gastronomy is a multi-layered experience that can be learned and appreciated in a classroom setting. Students get to go through a journey that allows them to develop skills and foster creativity. It’s a unique experience that Fredonia students haven’t experienced before.

Dean Messina, the director of Dining Services for the Faculty Student Association, serves as a guest instructor. He’s shown the students how to create dishes like homemade pasta noodles, and has given everyone cooking tips that he was taught in culinary school. Messina has taken away a lot from the class himself.

“From an academic and personal standpoint, the class is amazing,” he said. “I only knew about the Italian-American cuisine, not the real stuff. It’s been a very educational experience, and I’m so glad that I was asked to be a part of it.”

Senior accounting major Jessica Bolsei, another student in the course, said that the class has been very beneficial to her too.

“Obviously, I love how we get to eat all of the delicious food,” she said. “But I also love learning about the cultural significance of it all. The class is incredibly fun, and everyone has bonded over it. We’ve become like a real Italian family.”

Thanks to the campus community, the course has been able to use the classroom and kitchen facilities in Kasling Hall, as well as utilizing fresh produce from the school’s garden. The Communication Department has also brought in two interns to broaden the course experience; one is in charge of social media and public relations, and one is in charge of making weekly videos documenting each class session.

For more information, visit the course blog, italianfoodcultureblog.wordpress.com.

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