‚ÄúEvery day we eat pasta,‚Äù said Italian guide Elena Mari as nutrition students set out to learn about culture and cuisine in her home country. For many students Italian food was not a mystery but the basics on how it gets onto a family‚Äôs table were still unknown.
What were they buying, cooking, consuming? These answers and more were discovered at Mercato Trionfale, where many Roman locals purchased their food. Breaking into teams, the students buzzed through the market to complete their My Plate exercise, counting calories and balancing their meals along the way. ‚ÄúIt was hands on‚Ä¶Students got to look at the food, talk to the merchants and taste what they had,‚Äù said Professor Jeanette Lancaster. ‚ÄúThere were so many fresh things!‚Äù
Olive oil and cheese surrounding them, so much was shared with students by the local vendors. Transcending cultural barriers, food spoke a language of its own. ¬†The freshness of each product and the passion of the merchants helped the students learn about the country‚Äôs pride that it takes in its food. ‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt expecting there to be such variety and options‚Ä¶I learned about a few new fruits I didn‚Äôt really know about and made a few new friends,‚Äù said Narda Aldaco, Cornell College.
Traditional meal structure of an Italian family was also unveiled along the way as the market was segregated into areas of produce, fish, meats, and baked items with little integration. This was no different than what many Italian families experience daily. ‚ÄúI found it really interesting that they only have pasta at lunch and a protein for dinner. They really broke it up instead of doing one balanced meal like I do at home,‚Äù said Peter Scheinman from Chapman University.
With the learnings from the market still in mind, students took their Italian food experience to the next level‚Ä¶actually cooking. Wrapped in aprons and elbow deep in flour, they went step by step to create their pasta dishes from scratch. Learning how the pasta they love so much travels to their plate gave another layer of appreciation for Italian cooking. Strength, precision, and artistry all went into creating this one simple dish. It truly was a labor of love.
Laughing and working together, they proved that the best cuisine was not a one-person job. ‚ÄúToday we were experiencing the joy of Italy,‚Äù added Professor Lancaster.
While the day started with just nutrition in mind, it transcended to a look at a country through what they are most passionate about: food.