Sunday would have been the perfect day to crack open a couple of beers, throw some burgers on the grill and sit outside, just hanging out in the sun. But unfortunately, I don’t live in the US with a bunch of my college friends anymore. I live in Bra with the largest grouping of internationals outside of the Olympics (okay, so that might be a slight exaggeration, but I want to be clear). So instead, this day was spent setting a long table outside and welcoming friends as they arrived, while some classmates were in the kitchen cooking our Asian Sunday lunch.
To be honest this idea started as “brunch”, it wasn’t until we arrived and started cooking that I asked Jappy when we were eating. Instead of the 11:00am that I was expecting, the response was, “oh 12:00/12:30 probably”. In true Italian fashion, we ate promptly at 1:30pm with friends still arriving after antipasti.
One of my favorite parts of the university is our Societa Gastronomica, the gastronomic society. During my last semester at Boise State University, I took a Basque studies class and did a research paper on their gastronomic societies. The society here in Bra is modeled off this idea from the Basques. Started by a student from the Basque Country, the Societa is a place that any student can reserve and use to share a meal.
Our Societa is a big house, that two of the students live in to maintain. The students live on the top floor and on the bottom floor is everything someone throwing a food party could want. There is a professional kitchen, stocked with all the cooking instruments you could need, as well as the basics, like oil, salt and pepper.
There are two huge dining rooms with tables and chairs to fit what seems like the entire university. Down the hall is the Swap Room for students to bring old clothes or apartment items and exchange for something new or simply leave behind when they are done in Bra. Outside the house is a table that could seat 15-20 under a gorgeous pergola. There is also an incredible garden that is maintained by a local, as well as any students who want to help out and enjoy gardening.
Students can reserve it whenever they want, either for small get togethers or to throw an event and invite the student body. We have had a classmate’s birthday party here, as well as attended different themed nights from Brazilian grill to Louisiana gumbo. Everyone pays 2 euros (entry fee to help maintain the premises) and whatever is requested to help cover ingredients. It’s a pretty sweet system that we love to take advantage of.Sunday, we reserved the space with the idea for one of our classmates, Jappy who is a trained chef from the Philippines (Check out Jappy’s story on Meet the Gastromones here!), to make a lunch of dishes from his country. We wanted to make this our class’s first big event at the Societa, but we forgot it was a holiday weekend here in Italy. So it turned into a smaller get together of those of our class who stayed in Bra and a few other friends.
It was one of the best and most relaxing Sundays. It was perfect. We left Bra early to start cooking. Jappy and Caroline (Learn more about Caroline on Meet the Gastronomes here!) were our head chefs and Luisa and Marco their assistants. Me, I was along to supervise, DJ, organize the table, and genuinely keep the moral up. (Naturally, I excelled at my position.) After what seemed like a million hours and a few thousand taste tests, everyone arrived and it was finally time to eat.
At a long table full of some of the best people, we sat and ate incredible south Asian cuisine. We started with a yogurt cooler with mint and strawberries, made by Raja, a chef from India. Then an appetizer of this incredible “pancake filled with something kind of like a curry and onion frittata ” as Caroline put it. However you describe it, it was delicious and I couldn’t get enough. The main dishes were both national dishes of the Philippines. The delicious course was chicken adobo, a soy sauce and vinegar based stew, which was plated with Gina Tang Monggo at Baboy, mung beans with pork cooked in coconut milk. Finally we ended with a fresh fruit salad topped with a sweet sauce made of condensed milk. Absolutely worth the wait.
Its days like these that make me look around and think of how incredible my blessings have been. No matter how long I live here, I never stop feeling like I live at food summer camp. I’ll never understand how I got lucky enough to find this place where I feel like I belong, and with people who are some of the kindest and funniest I have ever met. Not only that, I live in a place with people who think that a great Sunday is spent cooking, eating and enjoying company with great food and even better people.
Raising a glass that all your Sundays are spent eating well, next to great people and creating happy memories. Stay hungry friends.
-The Very Hungry Traveler