Thursday, September 22, 2011

to diiiiiiie for

I went to a cooking class the other day. Like everything else in this crazy town, it had no resemblance to how I would expect it to look or operate. In a cooking class, I would expect for there to be a teacher standing in front of the class demonstrating how to make a certain dish, and then for each student to have her own working station where she attempted to make said dish. It's a good thing that I've learned to observe my expectations and then to throw them out the window before doing something new in Naples. I've learned to approach each situation with an open mind and a giant willingness to go with the flow.

Now, enter "Cooking with Vera." I walked into a converted garage that sort of looked like a kitchen. It had a stove and a long table complete with place-settings for eating, not cooking. There was also a table with an old food processor and a small electric mixer. I noticed the piles of vegetables and could smell some chicken roasting in the oven. Vera was running around adding spices to dishes boiling on the pot and eventually greeted the class. She told us what was on the menu, and that's when I realized she had already cooked half of the food and we were just there to help whip up some appetizers and chop some vegetables.

Vera simply started tasking people. "I need someone to chop these tomatoes." "Can someone please bring me a plate?" "I need someone to put the pasta into the boiling water."  She was like an executive chef and we were her little worker bees. Everyone just scrambled around trying to make herself useful. Every once in awhile, Vera would shout out some Neapolitan cooking advice, like, "Neapolitans never make a dish containing both garlic and onions. They use one or the other. If it has onions, it can't have garlic. This is because of their strong flavors." We all soaked up the advice and asked her as many questions as we could squeeze in about the food we were cooking.

After scrambling around and asking questions for an hour or so, Vera told us all to sit down and "mangia" ("eat"). So, we did. We ate a lot, because she had already prepared three types of meat for us to taste. With each thing she would serve, she would explain to us (very quickly) how she made the dish and then exclaim, "Trust me. You'll love it. It is to diiiiiie for!" In the meantime, she was also teaching us how to make a traditional Caprese cake, which we devoured for dessert. Yum.

In the end, I felt as though I had just attended a restaurant where the chef wanted to show off her amazing cooking abilities. I definitely left the class full and happy with several platefuls of leftovers. However, the verdict is still out on whether or not I actually learned how to cook anything...


Just another wonderfully, somewhat odd experience to add to the list of things that didn't go quite how I thought they would in Naples.

Thank you, Vera! Your chicken was simply to diiie for!

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