Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lunch With Barny, Commemorated.

Here's a blog entry I posted as a writing assignment to our school's blog post, The New Gastronomes:

During my undergraduate degree I went on exchange to England. Every Friday I had a three-hour class, the name of which escapes me, as does what we were studying. Perhaps some sort of Christian reliquary was involved? Triptychs? Who knows?

What I do recall is that halfway through class we would break for tea and a plate of goodies brought by different classmates each week. I reveled at the prospect of Jane’s chocolate cake or Sophie’s flapjacks, which for one sweet half-hour would break the sometimes-monotonous grind of religious iconography (Aha! That was it.) I thought school could not possibly get any better than that short, delicious, homemade teatime.

And then I came to UNISG. When Barny Haughton arrived from England to speak to us, my idea of happiness progressed from a half-hour cake break into a half-day of cooking and eating that left me in awe of my classmates and very, very full.

Barny, a chef renowned for his pioneering role in England’s organic and sustainable food movement, suggested that the next day we prepare lunch together at ALMA (the Italian culinary school housed in the same building as UNISG). We happily complied and after some crowded, sweaty, and cooperative hours in the kitchen we gathered around food-laden tables in the courtyard to hear what dishes had been made and why. Included was seafood from Diana, Asher, Arina, and Shauna, who had left at five a.m. that morning and made a three hour round-trip to the seaside to buy it fresh. A dedication to food? I think so.

Emily and I had also taken an alternative approach to sourcing our ingredients for lunch. On the previous day’s bike ride to school we had discovered sour cherry trees that practically sang “pick meeee!” as we rode by. The trees stood several feet behind a gate with a broken chain, but with the property seemingly abandoned we figured the cherries surely deserved a greater fate than becoming bird-feed. The next morning they were “liberated,” de-stoned, and baked into two glowingly-pink cherry pies. Emily’s crust, even after having been rolled out the night before and transported by bike trip to Colorno, was the best I’ve ever had.

Every dish was delectable, and the experience enlightened me further as to my classmates’ remarkable abilities in la cucina. Even before tasting the food, my mind began its instinctual “Must Gather Recipes” chant, so that’s exactly what I did. After a few pestering emails and the cooperation of the entire class, the result is a cookbook brimming with the recipes of what we ate that day. Each one has a story behind it, and for me the book as a whole serves as a tasty reminder of just how good school can get.

Click here to use, share, and love The UNISG Courtyard Collection. Buon Appetito a Tutti!

Photos by Shauna Ryan, Naama Szterenlicht and Suzie Hoban.

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