Imagine sitting at a table in an adorable Italian apartment, a great glass of wine in your hand, your two culinary trained friends cooking and the sun setting through the open door of the terrace. Friends from around the world trickle in, each with a new bottle of wine or a gorgeous loaf of bread, exchanging kisses on either cheek. They receive the glass of wine poured for them and take a seat of the table. The true magic comes when the meal is set, everyone oohs and ahs, and you watch as each takes their first bite. Their eyes close enjoying each element of the fresh local produce from today’s market, and appreciating the love and skill put into the preparation. They love food and you can see it in their faces. Suddenly something inside you settles in and thinks, “ahh these are my people, this is where I belong”.
I never have felt the need to belong somewhere, but I did always knew my perspective was different from most people. My love of food has been a passion throughout my life, a part of what made me, me. Now I am surrounded by a whole town of people who feel the same way about food as I do. You watch their first bites and see the appreciation. The table will hold a 45 minute conversation about one food product and everyone is equally invested. We plan travel adventures and do not ask for attraction recommendations, but restaurants and producers to visit. It leaves you speechless.
I had no doubt I would be happy living in Italy for a year and going to this school. But after only a few days it is plain to see that this is 100% the place I am supposed to be. Everyone here is so incredibly kind. You can walk down the street and see someone walking with a pressure cooker or holding a steaming pot in potholders on their way to a dinner at someone’s house. You go to someone’s apartment and standing in their kitchen can see homemade cheese being made. It is simply astounding and unlike anything I have ever experienced.
Not to mention the school itself is astounding. Yesterday we went to get our paperwork scanned in preparation for our Permit of Stay meetings next week. As I walked to the University I was overwhelmed with emotions. Nine months ago, I walked these same steps, smile reaching from ear to ear. I think I only caught every third word from my tour guide because my head was swirling with the possibility of getting to go to school for food. Now, here I was, the small town Idaho girl who just wanted to eat around the world and blog about it for rest of my life. It was surreal to walk those same steps, this time as an actual student.
Everyday I wake up in my own apartment in Italy, and open my window and shutters to the sounds of the market on the street below. The next year is going to be filled with so many adventures, lessons, friends, and meals. This town is the best springboard I can imagine for anyone who is in love with food. Even if we weren’t here for an education, but simply to live, the environment would be worth it.
The town in and of itself is the home of Slow Food. A movement dedicated to preserving the authenticity of food. It aims to continue the ceremony of meals and dedicates itself to the integrity of good ingredients. This truly is the most delicious town because everyone here knows that good production of food is the key to flavor.
Just as the town is a food lover’s playground, the students that inhabit the university are the people you want to be friends with. This network of friends is a huge resource and advantage to attending this university. Each person’s background is diverse, both ethnically and gastronomically. You meet people from all over the world and all walks of life. But the most amazing part is to hear their stories and understand why they are here in Bra. We have everything from trained chefs, to sustainability farmers, to those of us who just love to eat.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of this web of individuals is that no matter the background or level of skill held surrounding food, everyone understands that it all stems from the same passion. I was quite intimidated to hear people’s educations and experiences. Which means that since I was intimidated I made jokes about it to make it known. Everyone responded letting me know that it didn’t matter because they could see how much I loved food. One friend looked me in the eyes very seriously and said, “Watching you enjoy each bite speaks volumes to your passion.” Like I said, these people just get it.
After four days here, I can already tell this is going to be one of the best years of education, both in and out of school, that I have ever experienced. There is so much for me to learn and I can’t wait to share it. I knew there were people who loved food like me, but I never knew that it would overwhelm me to feel like I belong. I am sure that I will write it a million times in the next year, but always follow your passion. Just like I have been asking everyone I meet, what is your dream of all dreams? If you know your passion, find out how you can get paid for it. Find it, name it and go for it. Someone has to do it, why couldn’t that be you?
Until next time, stay hungry my friends!
-The Very Hungry Traveler