Cooking Class / The 2 Cooks
Monica and Franca, the 2 cooks working at the restaurant “Pietracupa Inn”, speak to us about their jobs and about food and dishes. They also tell us which is the course, that best suits their way of thinking and cooking.
MONICA: As a girl I attended secondary school and studied subjects, which had nothing to do with cookery or cooking. After getting the school diploma, I started a job in the kitchen of a restaurant, by sheer chance. I remember helping the staff to prepare dishes and courses and enjoying that activity, but, of course, at the time I couldn’t imagine, I would be working for so long, in the cookery world. Well, now I am a cook at “Pietracupa Inn” and I carry out this job, with great care and a particular interest, as well as with all my hearth. I have been employed at this restaurant, ever since it was established in this old, quiet and large manor house with a nice, wide garden and a pretty veranda, at the rear. Several years have gone by since then and in this time the staff , as well as I, have spared no efforts, to offer the guests fresh, authentic food, a broad range of well assorted, rich menus and a high quality service. Now that the restaurant has a name for good cooking and service and is going on quite well , I feel very satisfied and happy.
Franca and I are very good friends. I greatly appreciate her straightforward, outspoken and joyful disposition, which makes her a nice, pleasant person and also a lovely, honest and reliable worker. Anyway, all the people working at “Pietracupa Inn” are good and trustworthy persons, who always do their best, to offer a kind and prompt service. We indeed cooperate all together, in a pleasant, confident atmosphere, enjoying reciprocal help and affection. All the staff like welcoming and meeting the guests and some of the habitual customers are also my and my family’s friends. Now that the restaurant proposes also cookery lessons, we are all enthusiastic about of this new activity and looking forward to receiving the welcome guests.
I wish to learn more and more about cookery and Tuscan gastronomy and I am very fond of cooking. I like also to know the natural proprieties of food, as I want to exalt the flavour of the ingredients and I am also interested in the innovative, present day, culinary trend. Maybe, I enjoy, above all, the creative side of preparing good food, the chance to carry out recipes, in many different ways , also.., sometimes , just following one’s own instinct and ideas. I am happy to prepare dishes for the guests and I always use fresh produce and authentic food, because that’s very important, at least in my opinion. Franca and I enjoy creating new recipes and some of them have been very successful, thank God. Well, I am also an earnest supporter of Italian gastronomic tradition, which Italians regard as a constituent of the national, common, cultural inheritance. As far as I am concerned, I consider gastronomic tradition as the unequalled achievement of beautiful, brilliant minds and of skilful, industrious hands, handing over to us a patrimony of knowledge and experience, to prepare good, wholesome dishes. Well, now, the dish, that best suits my way of thinking and cooking…., maybe it is the millefeuille (napoleon)paté of chicken livers, complemented with a jelly aromatized with Vinsanto (sweet wine made with white raisins) . Actually, the dish is based on a centuries old recipe, but the preparation and the mixing of ingredients seem strikingly modern. It is a great course, which can appeal to the most delicate palate and can also be enjoyed by all those, who support the most modern and innovative cuisine.
As a cook, I greatly appreciate Tuscan cooking and not only because I live and was born in Tuscany. Tuscan cuisine is indeed good and founded on a long lasting, well renowned, gastronomic tradition. Well, I d like to thank you, for your kind attention.
FRANCA:I like working at the restaurant “Pietracupa Inn” and I am ager to improve my knowledge of cookery and to get a very “skilled” ability, to cook good food. Well, I feel at ease at when I am with my fellow workers and I am fond of them. Only a few persons work in the kitchen and we are accustomed to carry out our jobs, in a lively, quick and busy way and also in very tolerant, friendly and sympathetic atmosphere. We are good friends, who enjoy working speedily and meeting the guests’ requests, as soon as we can. I usually prepare the daily list of courses with Monica, who is one of my dearest friends. Sometimes we are very busy, but I don’t mind it, because I usually feel peaceful and quiet when I cook, although I am also a bit anxious to prepare all the courses, in good time. Monica and I often talk about food and ingredients, about modern and traditional cooking methods and when we create some new recipes, we generally carry them out very quickly, to know soon, how the dishes taste. We always use authentic food, fresh garden and farm produce. I indeed appreciate genuine, wholesome food, which I regard as a generous and providential gift of nature, helping us to nourish and raise life. Actually, I like nature and life in the country. When we cook, Monica and I use also some edible, wholesome plants, which grow naturally in the fields, on grassland and in the woods of the Chianti district. These plants can sometimes add to the flavour of dishes or eventually give the courses a peculiar or subtle taste. For example, if you cook “risotto” (rice stewed) with asparagus coming up naturally in the woods , it tastes far better than risotto with cultivated asparagus.
I am very fond of Tuscan cooking, which has a fine taste and is characterized by a limited, scanty use of animal fat. Tuscan specialties are often cooked in a simple, basic way, with olive oil, pepper and salt, aromatic herbs, few spices and fresh garden produce. This cuisine offers a broad range of dishes, as Tuscany is rich of locally produced food, which include, for example: lots of cereals and legumes, a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, a rich assortment of cheese and a notable choice of different kinds of tender meats, game, various sorts of fish and, of course, the wholesome, noted oil of Chianti hills and the well renowned wine, Chianti. Then, all considered, I would say, that Tuscan cooking can be regarded as a rich cuisine, characterized by simplicity; it is a cooking quite easy to digest and mostly appreciated for the fine flavuor. Maybe the dish, that best suits my way of thinking and cooking , is the small flan of goat milk’s cheese with honey and ginger. It is prepared in a very simple way and only needs an accurate mixing of few ingredients. It tastes pleasantly savoury and it has a “full”, well balanced taste. I also greatly appreciate Tuscan gastronomic tradition, which is the basis of present day cooking and moreover an important record of past habits and customs.
…..and now, could you tell us about what inspires you to create a new dish and which is the course on the menu, you like best?
MONICA: oh, well, what inspires me.., I couldn’t say so precisely, but, I mainly feel inspired to cook and also to create a new dish, in the kitchen of the restaurant. Oh, that’s the proper place, all in all, , where a lot of fresh food and produce is available and where I can enjoy Franca’s helpful cooperation. Actually, I like cooking with Franca, as she is always ready, to give good advice. When we create new recipes, we generally put our heads together and choose the ingredients and the suitable cooking method . Then, we start cooking and never give up, until what we have cooked, fully comes up to our expectations. Besides this, I am often urged to create new dishes, because the guests expect to taste courses, which they have never tried before. As to the dish which I like best…, well, maybe it is “Orzotto” (Pearl Barley stewed) with artichokes, complemented with sour apple sauce and crispy strips of pig cheek. This dish indeed has the fine taste, typical of traditional, Tuscan cuisine and also the appetizing flavour, characteristic of present day cooking. A great course, which can be considered as a unity between traditional cookery and a more modern way, to cook and to prepare dishes.
FRANCA: I greatly appreciate what Monica has just said about my cooperation and I thank her for her kind, friendly words, anyway she is very good at cooking, she has got a “magic touch”, when she cooks. About inspiration to create a new dish, well, I think, I feel mainly inspired when I see the fine, wide variety of fresh produce. Well, now I find it quite difficult, to tell you which is the dish I like best, because I really enjoy eating and I think that lots of courses taste delicious. Then, let’s say the mousse of liquorice, lemon and mint. The three substances have a very strong taste and flavour and when they are beaten together, into a mousse, they create a very original, fresh and appetizing sweet dish, the one I like best.