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Not much time to appreciate the surroundings, however, because we were soon hustled into a state-of-the-art kitchen and immediately put to work

Recently, I traveled to Tuscany, Italy, with my husband, brother and sister-in-law.

Tuscany has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. But that's a different story. This story is about the cooking class we attended, which necessitated dragging ourselves away from that magnificent scenery in order to broaden our culinary horizons. Kay Jewett

The class was recommended by our travel agent, who insisted that it was an important part of the Italian experience. This seemed reasonable — I mean, who doesn't love Italian food and want to learn from an expert Italian chef?

Our class (costing a small fortune for the four of us) was in the Italian countryside about a half-hour from our lodgings. Our lodgings, by the way, consisted of a villa built into a stone wall, 60 steep steps up from the street (ah, Tuscany)!

When we arrived at Chef Simonetta's lovely home, we discovered that it also served as a bed and breakfast. The grounds were beautiful and the view terrific. Not much time to appreciate the surroundings, however, because we were soon hustled into a state-of-the-art kitchen and immediately put to work.

The operative word here is WORK. I mean, who knew? The menu consisted of a Zucchini Flan as the first course, Pasta Bolognese and Herbed Pork Chops as the main courses, and Chocolate Torte for dessert. Doesn't sound too hard, does it? Ha! I would have agreed with you in the beginning, but probably not after the four hours it took us to prepare the meal.

We began by making the Bolognese sauce. This involved working with a veal base and mincing numerous herbs, which, no matter how fine we cut them, were never quite fine enough for Chef Simonetta. So we had to continue to mince them until they met her approval.

Next we cut up the vegetables — same issue. Finally we minced the chicken livers, hearts and gizzards. There were a lot of them, and I confess that I was wondering at this point if I would even be able to bring myself to eat the meal.

Next up was creating the homemade pasta. This was a lot of fun, and we all enjoyed learning a new skill. But it took a very long time and we wondered why we were making so much of it. There was pasta draped over every available spot in the kitchen. Maybe our chef needed leftovers for her family?

When we got around to assembling the zucchini flans, we made ten of them, despite the fact that there were only four of us. Hmmm. Finally, we made the Chocolate Torte, which was a simple feat, compared to everything else.

OK, showtime! I am happy to say everything was delicious, even the organ-meat-enhanced Bolognese. However, it wasn't until the end of the meal that we were able to discover where the leftovers went.

As we were leaving, we walked through a room that contained three tables. One was occupied by a couple who were enjoying their first dinner course, which, no doubt, you will not be surprised to learn was Zucchini Flan. At another table, the elusive Pasta Bolognese was being served. At a third, a tasty pork chop was in evidence, and, if I do say so myself, a delicious Chocolate Torte.

A very efficient person, our chef. You have to hand it to her. She had us sweat and toil all day making dinner for her guests, and then pay her for the privilege of doing it. We all had a good laugh about our lovely and tricky chef, but also admired her ingenuity.

The best thing about the cooking class? You should taste my Pasta Bolognese!

You can reach Kay Jewett at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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