Kelly Strobel of Italian At Heart - La Dolce Vita Through Food and Wine From Italy to California is sharing with us how her love for food and wine was born back when she studied abroad here in Turin.
Kelly is one of the TurinEpi18 guests.
Kelly is a teacher of Italian and English as a Second Language and she blends her love for languages with food and wine. She shares her blog with her partner in crime Alberto Semenzato, also a Turin Epicurean Capital 2018 guest. After all, the best things in life are those you can share 😎
|Alberto & Kelly|
How Torino Sparked my Culinary Passion
It has been a long time since Torino and I have met. The last time we were together, we were both preparing for monumental events: I for college graduation, and Torino for the Winter Olympics.
I studied abroad in Torino my last semester of college to study Italian. At the time, my university only offered an exchange program in Torino (though now they have programs in many other Italian cities). I am so grateful that my studies took me to Torino. Even though Torino is Italy’s fourth largest city, one trip to Florence, which was filled with Americans speaking English and outrageous prices, made me realize that Torino is still a hidden gem. Torino became so dear to me not only for the people I met and how it started to feel like home, but also because it ignited my culinary fire.
I have always known the value of cuisine because my very busy mother always made it a point to have a home cooked meal on the table, but it was in Torino that I became curious about how it relates to a culture. In fact, most of my initial culture shocks were related to food!
I was intimidated by Torino bars, as stunning and elegant as they are. Drinking a coffee standing next to strangers! And ordering in Italian! (I had barely learned how to say where I was from at that point). In fact, I was still learning to love strong coffee then (now I can’t do without a daily caffè). The university cafeteria was my coffee haven. There, the cashier made it a point to learn our names. My Italian teacher prioritized cappuccino breaks. I tried my first cioccolata calda (hot chocolate), and I was astonished (and then delighted) that it was thick enough to hold up a spoon. My chocolate obsession intensified when I was introduced to the heavenly combination of chocolate and hazelnut in gianduja. And when there was a chocolate festival in town and I missed the bus to our excursion, my friends imagined that I was in Piazza Castello, smothered in chocolate from head to toe. That’s how irresistible gianduja is.
|Choco fest in Turin|
There were so many new unspoken food “rules” to learn. In fact, I learned these rules by breaking them. One of our first nights in Torino, a group of us hungry Americans arrived at a pizzeria around 6:00 p.m., only to find the door locked. We couldn’t believe it! That would have been prime dinner time in the U.S. Eventually, we figured out that ALL the restaurants were closed until 7:00 p.m. at the earliest, so we obediently returned on the dot, only to be the only ones in the pizzeria until 8:00 p.m. rolled around. (Eventually, we learned about aperitivo, and that solved many of our problems!) The pizza itself was a shock as well, just one or two toppings, and a WHOLE PIZZA all to oneself (a dream come true).
|coffee or aperitif in Piazza Carignano|
Another rule we unknowingly broke was making a pesto risotto for a get-together in our apartment. In the U.S., we love pesto and slather it on anything and everything from sandwiches to pizza. When my roommate proudly proclaimed to our Italian teacher that she had made pesto risotto, my Italian teacher defiantly said, “No! It’s impossible!” and went on to explain that pesto can only go with a few types of pasta. My roommate just shrugged her shoulders and replied, “well, it was good.” After trying fresh pesto in Liguria, I’ve become a bit pickier about how I eat my pesto (sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you try the real deal).
While part of the fun in the kitchen is experimenting with new techniques and combinations of flavors, I equally love the culinary traditions that are deeply ingrained in Italian culture. Unfamiliar customs like savoring the meal at the dinner table for hours without the waiter shoving the check under your nose before your last bite, shopping for produce at an outdoor market, and pairing a few carefully selected complementary and seasonal ingredients started to feed a yearning I had never known was there before.
|Porta Palazzo market|
What stole my heart the most about Torino was our nightly trips to the gelateria down the street, and how the lady behind the counter would so patiently teach us how to pronounce difficult flavors like stracciatella. I became so passionate about food not only for the flavors, but for its ability to nourish oneself, connect people, and carry on traditions.
Since the last time I have been to Torino, it has changed, as have I. I hear there’s a metro now, and who knows what other surprises are in store. My palate has matured, and now I appreciate the strength of an Italian caffè and no longer fret about ordering in Italian. I can’t wait to meet Torino again at this year’s Turin Epicurean Capital. It has been too long since I have seen an old friend, and we have a lot of catching up and dining out together to do.
Pictures by Lucia Hannau
Follow Kelly on
her website: Italian at heart