How My Photography Class Became a Lesson In Italian Cooking

I love photography, and when choosing my classes for Florence I made sure to pick a photography class. The class I chose, however, had the wrong prerequisites listed. It said that I needed to have taken an introductory class, and I have taken three. The problem was that I have done all of my photography in the dark room and had no previous experience using digital, which was needed. This is how I ended up in my Italian Cooking class.

My friends and family were a little surprised when I told them about my new class. I am a disaster in the kitchen. I have blown up more bagel bites than you can imagine and somehow manage to ruin even the easiest of meals. I am also not above accidently catching things on fire. This is why I decided I needed to take the cooking class, though, because my lack of skill in the kitchen was actually starting to get pretty embarrassing.

Fresh Italian bread!


I was a nervous wreck during my first day of class. Luckily, I was put on fruit salad duty, but I was still so concerned that I would do something to completely ruin the meal. It didn’t help my nerves when I accidently put three times the amount of vanilla that the recipe called for when making the cream for the fruit. I opted not to say anything and silently prayed for the rest of class that the cream would turn out okay. That’s the great thing about Italians and their cooking–going by the recipe just doesn’t matter.

Letting the tomato, basil and mozzarella stew


The group next to mine was on bruschetta duty, and as I watched them make it, I thought it might be something that I would be able to do. After eating it, I knew I would have to try–it was amazing (the fruit salad and cream dessert was also one of the best dishes 🙂 ! ). On my way home from class, I bought the ingredients that I would need for the bruschetta and began to make it as soon as I got home. Our teacher taught us tricks like rubbing garlic on both sides of the bread as it toasts in the oven and letting the tomato/mozzarella/basil mix sit for twenty minutes before putting in on the bread.

Bruschetta straight out of the oven!


I didn’t catch anything on fire, didn’t melt anything, and didn’t blow anything up. I was so excited about my bruschetta success and even my roommates couldn’t get enough of it. I made it three more times that week.

A few days later, I was eating at a restaurant and ordered my favorite appetizer here in Italy: pears and cheese with honey (sometimes on toast, usually mixed as is). As we were eating our appetizer, I realized that if I bought the right ingredients, I could easily make this at home. I asked the waiter what type of cheese is used in the dish and found out that it was pecorino cheese. I have now been adding pears, pecorino cheese and honey to my grocery list and love how easy it is to make–but even more, how delicious it is!


Pear, Pecorino & Honey

My friends and family at home didn’t believe me at first when I showed them what I had made, but are now looking forward to having me make them an authentic Italian meal when I get home (which I didn’t offer–but am still excited to show them what I have learned!). I am also excited for everything else I am going to learn to make in my class, and to be able to return to America hating the kitchen a little bit less!

Submitted by Michelle, Abroad101 Global Ambassador in Florence, Italy