A Taste of Life Abroad

Last month McKenna Keller shared with us her first few weeks from Torino, Italy. Today, in true #FoodieFriday spirit, she’s telling us about her cuisine class and the wonderful addition it has been to her time abroad. 

Abbiocco [ab-biòc-co] (noun): the feeling of drowsiness one gets after eating a big meal.

One of the most beautiful things about study abroad is the harmony in which the ‘studying’ aspect and the ‘abroad’ aspect come together. Going to school in another country has given me the unique opportunity to focus on learning about all things Italian: the language, culture, and, yes, even the cuisine! Every few weeks my classmates and I hop on a train and head to the hillside town of Candiolo, walk through the slender picturesque streets, and arrive at a charming villa belonging to Beppe and Milly, the sweet married couple who share their kitchen with us for cuisine class. Whether teaching us how to make homemade tomato sauce or homemade gnocchi, fresh pizza dough or fresh pasta, every single class is an Italian adventure.

study abroad food cuisine class course USAC
McKenna Keller and her classmates learn about Italian cooking.

Our very first cuisine class focused on a Northern Italian staple: risotto. Northern Italians living in places like Torino used to eat a lot of rice and polenta and were even called ‘polenta eaters’ by their southern counterparts. We had a taste of that creamy tradition with two different types of risotto! Bepe showed half the class how to master the complicated rice stirring process while Milly directed the rest of us in making a truffle sauce for half the risotto and a saffron sauce for the remainder. After eating like a typical college student, a home cooked meal had truly never tasted better!

The very next week was all about gnocchi. We made everything by hand, from peeling the potatoes, mashing them up, forming the gnocchi, and rolling the little ‘dumplings’ across forks to give them those characteristic rivets. We topped the two dishes off with homemade cream sauce and pesto, and followed the meal with homemade tiramisu. Milly showed us the perfect amount of coffee to soak the ladyfingers in as well as how to masterfully layer the mascarpone, a lesson that I think will stay with me for a lifetime.

pizza cooking class food course international study abroadOur third class was an Italian pizza party! Pizza is another staple in Italy, having been created in Naples. The most typical pizza is still the Margherita, named after a princess and tastefully sporting the colors of the Italian flag (red tomato sauce, white mozzarella cheese, and green basil). Beppe helped us roll out the dough, which is stubbornly elastic, making this process so much harder than it looks! We didn’t get to toss it up in the air like the pros, but maybe with a bit more practice. We did, however, get to make the classic Margherita as well as other pies featuring ingredients such as sausage, peppers, goat cheese, and even Nutella to top off a dessert pizza!

While Cuisine has been my all time favorite class, it feels like so much more than schoolwork. Being welcomed into a home and involved in the cooking process was comforting for so many of us students who are thousands of miles away from our real homes. It is an escape from frozen pizzas and canned pasta sauce, not to mention a unique and authentic toe-dip into the wonderful world that is Italian cooking. Tomorrow I head off to class to learn about making fresh pasta: rolling, cutting, and all! I think it’s pretty safe to say that my family is beyond excited for me to come home and cook dinner…

It’s amazing what a home-(class)-cooked meal can do for you. Do you think a cuisine or other culture course could be a part of your academics abroad? See what courses your program has to offer! 


2 thoughts on “A Taste of Life Abroad”

  1. Ciao McKenna!

    I really enjoy your blog posts! I will be studying abroad in Torino (at PoliTo) for an academic year starting in September of 2017. I was wondering how you came upon this cooking class and where I can sign up when I arrive?


    James L.
    Sophomore at Iowa State University

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