Somewhere on the top of many people’s list of super vacations is a trip to Tuscany. Beautiful scenery, rich history, the birthplace of the Renaissance, fine art and quintessential food and wine. What is there not to love?
It is so nice that you may be tempted to stay, but reality always kicks in and you’ve got to come home. There is no better way to remember the trip than to bring the flavor of the region back home with you. How do you do that? The answer is take a cooking class, of course.
That is exactly what Billy and Dodie Murphy just did. On their recent trip to Italy, they took an intimate cooking class.
When I say “intimate,” I mean it. The class consisted of Billy and Dodie and the chef. They didn’t just watch as the chef prepared the dinner for the night. They rolled up their sleeves and chopped and mixed, simmered and sautéed their way through a deceptively simple but elegant dinner.
They prepared a vegetable flan, homemade pasta with Tuscan meat ragout, andpork loin with roasted potatoes and finished with a chocolate soufflé with melting heart.
Billy and Dodie are a youthful couple with young children. Their lives are very busy, but neither describes themselves as accomplished cooks. Billy likes to grill, and Dodie says he’s very good at it. Dodie has a number of favorite go-to meals the family enjoys, and Billy says she is a great cook.
That said, each is interested in expanding their cooking repertoire and increasing their knowledge of techniques in the kitchen.
It would seem they are in a culinary place occupied by millions of Americans today. There is a renaissance of sorts taking place with home cooks around the country, especially millennials. There is a growing desire to learn to cook or, stated more correctly, to learn to cook well. I love that and see evidence of the truth of that statement every day as people from all walks of life stop me and share their cooking experiences and ask questions.
During the past several years, a number of studies have looked into the eating and cooking habits of Americans with an emphasis on the millennial generation. The following is a sampling of some of the observations that you may find interesting. See where you may fall in these findings.
The research firm Technomic found that 80% of millennials think cooking at home is a good way to live, and 70% think they would enjoy cooking for others. Unfortunately, they don’t have the confidence in their cooking abilities. The research firm NPD found that only 45% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 and 64% of people between the ages of 25 to 34 consider themselves to be “somewhat good” at cooking.
Research has shown that cooking has become an “aspirational” trend for many Americans. People want to learn to cook and want to cook, but they feel as though they are so busy they just can’t do it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the majority of Americans spend between 11 and 17 minutes a day on food preparation and cleanup.
Rather than honing culinary skills, increasing numbers of Americans rely on restaurants, takeouts, delivery services and meal kits. The food industry has taken notice and is only too happy to promote the myth that meal preparation is hard.
I confess that I am somewhat evangelical when it comes to encouraging everyone to spend some quality time in the kitchen. Cooking great meals need not be hard, time-consuming drudgery. Since Louise cleans up behind me, I don’t even find cleanup to be too taxing.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who want to cook, take a lead from the Murphys. On your next vacation, put a cooking class on your itinerary. You don’t have to go to Italy to do this, although it would be great if you did. Every region of the United States has its own cuisine, and cooking classes are so easy to find. Go to Santa Fe and learn Southwestern cuisine, to New Orleans to learn Creole, to Charleston to learn Low Country. The list is endless.
The Murphys brought home a little cookbook from their class. It is delightful but challenging at the same time. It is clearly written by someone whose first language is not English. It is, however, much better than if I wrote a cookbook in Italian. Brad Cox, our pastry chef, is preparing chocolate soufflé with melting heart.
I have included that recipe exactly as printed in the small cookbook. Enjoy.