Sunday, August 30, 2009

It is Sunday evening here in Colorno (near Parma). The entire cast and crew of this Italian Chef venture has had today off ... most of us slept until at least 1 in the afternoon, having made quite a night (and early morning!) of it the day before. Even youth must recuperate.

Saturday saw us in school all day, with our class split into two lab sessions (group A and B). I’m in group “A”, and we spent the entire day, from a bit after 8 until nearly 6 in the evening working with Chef Maestro Soldati.

Watching Chef is to see the utmost concentration and creativity at play ... he does not follow a recipe in the usual sense ... he composes as he goes, knowing all the rules and working within them to develop new and stunning food. Stunning in every sense ... the taste, the colours, the composition on the plate ... nothing is left out, nothing is by chance.

And ... the plates are not full!

Each of us knows that a plate of food, like a good book page, or any art piece, needs some blank space ... the viewer, the diner, the participant in the discussion cannot be utterly overloaded all the time. This is one of the things that is constantly emphasized here ... more is not better, more is not (usually) good. Take time to compose, to thoughtfully create. Make the food tell your truth and knowledge and skill.

By the end of the day with Chef I was ready to just cut off my hands, cook them and give them to any needy charity case. I don’t think I have worked so hard for a long, long time. Chef really pushes us constantly, and the results from me were, well, less than hoped-for by him. I have a lot of growing to do. But at the end he was kind enough to offer strong encouragement to us all, and compliments, so all is not lost. We came home completely exhausted ... unable to do anything but raise a glass bottle of refreshing beverage. I said to Chef Tomaselli (our George Brown Chef with us) that the sun would come up tomorrow, and I’d have a chance to learn more and grow. His encouragement is greatly valued by everyone.

Sunday (today) was, truly, a day for rest and relaxation. It rained most of the morning and early afternoon, ensuring that the group could not really go out for much, and we all stayed inside and just did quiet tings. At about 2 the weather cleared, and by that time everyone in my house had risen and we all made a large brunch for ourselves. This was followed by an afternoon of quiet visits, laundry, ironing, a few card games and, tonight, birthday cake for two of our ‘family members’.

Our house has developed a tradition of doing home cooking. Most of the rest of the houses don’t, at least not all the time, but we do. Tonight we had a choice of Jason’s penne, Andrew’s spaghetti, some pizza that Tyler offered, three kinds of wine (red stuff, white stuff and bubbly stuff), beer, watermelon for dessert, with a finale of birthday cake.
Today's question ... how do we leave blank space in our lives for others, and for ourselves?

What a great week-end!