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Chapter 16

Cooking …

Almost immediately after we started running a Bed and breakfast in my home, I was asked to offer dinners.

At the beginning, I thought it was a joke, I was learning to cook on my own and I would have loved to do that, especially for the interesting interaction with my guests that I have always perceived as the most beautiful and enriching experience I could have here, but I did not feel I could.

After learning to create a few basic dishes, I started cooking for the guests and it has continued over the years very successfully.

I took only one semester in a State Cooking School but it was very important to me because I learned the basic rules of antipasti (starters), primi (first course), carne e pesce (secondi) , dolci ( desserts).

I must state that I don’t have many recipes and I don’t cook fish much because I don’t eat it. I only eat shell fish and salmon and this is due to the fact that when I was very young I went to Hospital three times because some fish spines were stuck in my throat.

So I refuse to clean a fish, to cook a fish , to eat a fish.

My apologies, but the topic is over, I am just too scared...

That school was amazing because I learned how to work with pasta frolla, pasta brisé, pasta sfoglia (tart pastry, pate brisée and puff pastry). These basic methods have to be learned at school. I think I cook with my imagination for everything which is not the above mentioned pastry and cake making.

I have learned pasta making on my own.

I used to look at both my great grandmother and father making fresh pasta. My dad used to make fresh pasta every Sunday but I was too busy with my studies or my work to do it with him.

I think I have some good genetics in pasta making because since the very first time I started doing it ten year ago, it was rather simple to me.

I never made big mistakes making pasta.

I have learned following my great grandmother recipe book and practice has done the trick!

In the past ten years I have developed some techniques on my own.

I sometimes watch other people videos on YouTube because we must be willing to learn more and improve each day.

But, as I have always done in my life, I follow my instinct and my ideas.

For instance, I always start mixing the flour and the eggs in a bowl, then I work on the wood board. It is so much simpler and more hygienic in my opinion.

I adore cooking and I can say, in total honesty, it is pure passion rather than a job or something I decided to do rationally.

I often compare cooking to yoga. Because in both activities, my mind is empty, I don’t think of anything. I let myself breathe, work and live in full harmony with my inner soul.

It may appear silly or exaggerated to someone and I can understand that, but to me it is this: a thorough and soothing experience that in the past 8 years I have been sharing with my guests too.

I was asked to offer cooking classes by a big company run by a lady and for two years I replied I did not feel I was good enough nor I had the equipment and my kitchen was not suitable.

My kitchen was beautiful, I had pieces of furniture from the early 1800 and everything looked elegant, stylish and perfect but in any means it was suitable to accommodate guests and do cooking classes.

8 years ago, I was approaching my 50s and this lady was approaching me asking me to offer classes every couple of months and I was always refusing.

That year, 2012, I felt it was time to do something because the B&B business was not going as well as it used to. The online travel agent (OTA) such as Booking.com or Airbnb were slowly killing any independent business and we wanted to keep independent.

I asked Jacques if he agreed with my idea of offering cooking classes and if we could invest some money in a modern and efficient kitchen.

I asked him because everything I do, I do it with him. If he weren’t interested or determined as much as I was, I would not have done it.

He loved the idea so much that he designed with me the kitchen that we had done in a store according to my needs.

I knew how much space I needed, where I wanted my oven, where I could put my beautiful tablecloths, how I wanted the central island etc.

That would have been my gift for my 50th birthday instead of a special holiday or jewel and I must stay I have never regretted it.

I had my new kitchen delivered and started offering classes working for this lady in September that year.

I will never forget my first Chinese guest I had to teach. A delight to work with her, a delight to have her in our home and spend a week with her.

That lady had an approximate programme that I could follow which I did for the first two times, then I elaborated my own programme that has slightly changed over these years.

I will never forget how anxious and nervous I was the very first day. It may not look like, but I am deeply shy and I become so extrovert, open and friendly three seconds after I realize people are happy with me.

But, if I see someone who is not happy or treats me with arrogance or mistreat me, I don’t say a word and I close myself to the outside world in a second.

This is me.

In all of these years, I have never had a bad experience running a class, every time it is a fantastic and totally new to me.

I never get bored.

In 2014 I started offering classes also to my guests or tourists in the area.

Even if I have determined that an entrée, fresh pasta and its sauce with a dessert are what the guests expect in two hours, every class is new and gives me a different satisfaction.

I have tried to do a three hour class, I can make it, but I see guests get tired and lose concentration after two intense hours.

We really work for two hours. I am very welcoming and offer wine all the time but when it’s class time, it gets really serious and we only work.

I offer lots of natural water because at any season, we perspire.

Doing homemade and hand-cut tagliatelle is quite a challenge.

During all of these years, I have seen muscular men getting exhausted – and this is due to the fact that they don’t use energy and force in the right way.

I never get tired.

I have a very bad knee since my surgery when I was 21. Twenty years ago, some doctors wanted to replace my knee and I have not accepted. I have only done two series of hyaluronic acid injections in my knee three years ago and last year.

I say this because occasionally my knew hurts very much and that is when it is painful for me to stand up for two hours but I have always managed because I enjoy it so much that I don’t really feel unbearable pain.

When I have 5 or 6 classes in a week, Jacques helps me doing the washing up or similar things. He is always very helpful especially in the second part which consists in having the guests in the garden enjoy local wine and eating the entrée while we boil the water to cook fresh pasta and clean up before serving lunch.

Without Jacques, it would be impossible.

He knows me.

I just have to call him “Jacques, sorry…” and he is already there.

And he knows what I need.

Lunchtime is always very entertaining, exciting and much fun.

We all eat together what we have produced and guests are always astonished that all is so perfect and the tagliatelle made by some different people are almost just identical.

It is a huge satisfaction for me.

When I see my guests happy, smiling, when I hear a beautiful conversation, when often they tend not to leave and even forget to look at their watch, I know we have done something special .

Special because we all have created a special atmosphere and a bond among us.

What I do is simple and most of my guests say that everything looks so simple.

It has been my priority to study, research and create a programme which looks very simple.

I also want my guests to go home and reproduce everything we have done.

It makes no sense to me that I cook amazingly difficult dishes that they will never be able to reproduce.

I am a mamma, an Italian mamma who puts her love and passion in what she does and teaches. This is my ultimate message: I invite my guests to learn to cook with love and passion and it will show.

If you look for “nouvelle cuisine”, for “ amazing effects”, for something unexpected, don’t cook with me.

Here everything is traditional simple, original and my recipes come from my family.

3 years ago I wrote a Cook-Book by the name of “ The glamorous ladies and I in my kitchen”. It consists in 21 recipes from my great grandmother Doralice, my grandmother Alda, my mother Gabriella and my own recipes.

Over the years, cooking classes have become the most important part of our business and this gives me so much satisfaction because Jacques and I can socialize with our guests and we have created a net of amazing friends we know will be friends forever.

As I always say, you develop the best ideas in the worst periods of your life.

A crisis is an opportunity of personal growth and also of growth of your business.

Jacques and I developed cooking classes when we were afraid to be swept away by the big online travel agents (OTA); at present, March 2020, we are facing the most dramatic stage of our life due to the corona virus.

We have not worked since end of November 2019 and only God knows when we will start working and making money again.

Nevertheless, both of us are working , keeping the B&B clean, the garden beautiful, I am cooking every day and since January 2010 we have worked and Jacques has created a magnificent new room called “ Anna and Jacques wine room”.

Jacques has converted his old bike room into a beautiful wine tasting and food pairing room.

We were supposed to be fully booked until June and again in September.

At present we can’t say when we are able to work again and we can’t even predict when and if guests come back.

But in my heart, I know that we are doing the right thing.

I am writing this Journey of my life, I cook, I post photos and recipes and get ready with a new Italian experience to offer o

ur guests.

I must say, in great modesty, that I feel honoured and very proud of having continuously wanted to learn new things.

I am desperate in learning. Every day of my life.

At the age of 57, I feel there are so many more things to learn and experience.

Never for a second I feel I have done all I could.

I still have plenty to give…


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