Food and Friendship

Rome!! Wow. It feels surreal to actually be here with seventeen of the greatest people I know. To nobody’s surprise, we started our time in Rome with a bang. To everyone’s surprise, that bang was a cooking class!

We arrived in Rome around noon on Monday, and by 3:00, we were gathering to head to our private cooking class. We met Cesare, who is the part-owner of a place called Gianni and Cesare’s (also called Cook with us in Rome). Cesare was so kind and enthusiastic to have a group of sixteen hooligans taking over his kitchen. Our menu for the day included zucchini blossoms filled with cheese and fried, two kinds of pasta: fettuccine with tomato sauce and cavatelli with a broccoli sauce, and strawberries in a balsamic vinegar marinade. We quickly jumped into our spots around the kitchen and got to work.

Our first task was to slice tomatoes to begin the tomato sauce. Once the sauce was cooking, we moved on to the zucchini blossoms. This was a food that I had never seen before, and the concept of eating a flower took me by surprise. We stuffed the blossom with a mixture of cheeses and wrapped it up nice and pretty. Well, some were nice and pretty… Others (@boys) struggled with the concept of being gentle and not shredding their flowers. Regardless, the flowers went into the fryer all the same and came out looking fluffy and delicious.

The next part was my absolute favorite: making the pasta! We started by making the dough for the pastas. They both needed only two ingredients: flour and water for the cavatelli and flour and an egg for the fettuccine. This touched our inner five-year-old selves – it was like play doh for adults. A dream come true. Once the dough had been prepared and settled for a bit, it was ready to be shaped. The dough for the fettucine needed to be rolled out, which also caused the dough to expand exponentially. At one point, all sixteen of us were wrapped around the room, and every single one of us had our hands supporting the long sheet of pasta so that it didn’t break as it rolled through the machine. We all giggled as we stood shoulder to shoulder, passing the dough from one hand to another. This task would have been impossible without every pair of hands in the room.

We moved upstairs to a cozy room set for the sixteen of us. In Will’s words, it was “the kids table uncensored.” We began our meal with a table prayer, which felt so much like a family that I was overflowing with happiness. We told embarrassing stories about peeing our pants, made paper airplanes, and had a hoot making up funny rhymes to “Down by the Bay” (my favorite was Riley’s rhyme that ended the song perfectly: “Have you ever seen CR9 having a great time?!”) We clapped and sang and laughed together so loudly that the building tenets called and complained about us, but I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. We left that dinner with huge smiles that couldn’t be budged.

We collectively put in the work to make something so incredible. Sure, the dinner could technically have been made by one single person and enjoyed in solitude. But the laughs we shared while we prepared the food together made it so much sweeter when we got to enjoy it together later. It was so cool to eat food that was made by those we love, and made with such joy. We have shared some extravagant dinners together over these past three weeks, but this one takes the cake in my book.

P.S. – thanks for the awesome photos, Dr. P!!