We finished our tour in France with Provence, Burgundy, and Lyonnais and then moved onto Italy. On my way home, my beef bourguignon was confiscated by TSA. The glazed pearl onions, sautéed mushrooms, and lardons decorated the container of stew like modern art. I parted with it begrudgingly.

Many of the dishes of France were like nesting dolls, with compounded ingredients layered into one another. Each component integrated into the dish to become a new base for another layer. In a three step process, we made a luscious shrimp gratin that smothered seared shrimp in Glacage Royale – decadent cream made from one sauce that was combined with another sauce and then folded with another. Bourride, an aromatic seafood stew, was built with a fumet, which is a stock made with wine, that is combined with a soup base of herbs, citrus, and vegetables, tempered with an aioli and then served with toasted bread that is spread with a red pepper paste. Hollowed vegetables were blanched and stuffed with their sautéed inner flesh combined with eggs, herbs and cheeses and roasted.

Italy was much simpler. We made different types of pasta from the same dough and sauces were made in a blender or sauté pan. Aside from the radicchio tart adorned with anchovies, our class happily ate the food before us at the end of the day, spiraling fresh fettuccine on forks, and biting into sweet candied butternut squash ravioli, breaded veal chops, roasted chipollini onions, a fresh olive and celery heart salad, and creamy risotto.

I was more than halfway through the program and was benefitting from the fundamentals learned in module one and two. Techniques were coming together naturally and I could more easily break recipes down into their individual parts.

On Saturday night, I met some old friends. Although my body wanted nothing more than to be in pajamas on the couch, I was refreshed seeing their faces. The delight of laughing with a familiar friend peels through layers in time. In those moments, we shared abbreviated notes to catch one another up and I was humbled by the magnitude of the human experience. As I’ve found my way through my sorrow, I had missed theirs.

When I left school, the sun was still out and while the cold air still blew, the light in the sky signaled that the season was changing.

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