For the second class, Elisabeth cooked and I played backup. This group, the one with our friend Jen, had a very different vibe.
There might be a spaghetti western joke here, but it clearly wasn’t this gang’s first online Italian food rodeo. Many, like Jen, had taken a physical class with a chef in Rome (nostalgic sigh), then followed him on Facebook and started taking one-off classes and a regular series with him. With a few sweet ribs between classmates and a lady in a Christmas apron silencing her husband, it was easy to perceive a softness for the group, a perk of having done this together for a while.
“I see everyone is drinking, so I’m going to have a drink,” said Chief Andrea’s wife Erica, a transplant from Michigan. During this class she did something similar to what RJ in Memphis did, spin cameras and shake things up.
In this class, some people just watched, with the idea of making the food for this class – white lasagna and beer cod – at another time. Not everyone knew each other, but they had the feeling of “happiness to be together” that you might have at a book club.
Andrea happily guided us through the process, his hands literally blurring our screen as he worked. Lasagna and fried fish weren’t a staple in our house so it was fun having a guide while we were making it. He also knows when to chat for a bit so people can catch up with him.
“Chop the mushrooms as fine as possible,” he encouraged. “Not with your fingertips.”
He’s good at working the room, using people’s names, making us feel included in something bigger. There is a clever use of hand gestures that help prevent people from interrupting: thumbs up for good, hand in front of the screen for Wait or I have a question, a forward bearing of the index to keep on going. When Elisabeth and I tried to determine if our batter was thick enough, we looked at the screen and saw a few students holding bowls up to their cameras and lifting their whips so he could tell them if they needed to add. flour or water.
At one point, Jen stopped the chef when she mentioned her “Midwestern Trash Lasagna” made with non-Italian ingredients.
“I swear cottage cheese does something magical,” she says.
As the class ended and people were saying goodbye to each other, I got a little sad to leave this group I had just joined and had some accomplishments.
First of all, I like it. Meeting new people and participating in a group activity is a welcome change in my pandemic routine.
As the experienced sages of the second class taught me, it is not necessary to cook the entire menu for each class. However, you will be well served to prepare everything as much as possible before the start of the course. (The recipe versions of the two classes I attended were sent in advance.) Do it, and you can watch, talk, learn, and enjoy more, instead of fighting to keep up with everyone. I was half prepared for both classes and felt like I was spending quite a bit of time getting by.
These courses would make a great gift. Taking them out with a group of distant friends or family would be a fun way to spend time together.
It would be nice to have more hangout time before or after class. I didn’t necessarily want to watch a bunch of people eat on Zoom, but I would have appreciated a little more time to linger with everyone, especially our Italian hosts. After class I certainly had some time to tell friends that I had taken a cooking class with a chef in Rome.
But above all, as we prepare to enter into a long, harsh winter tinged with hope, it’s good to have groups we can be a part of, with popular kitchens smelling of garlic, a yard in Italian attire. lively, holding us together and teaching us how to make good food.
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