Cook the Farm

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Cook the Farm was a life changing experience and I don’t say that lightly, I was so lucky not only to be able to participate in this program but also see this program come to life.  I first became connected to the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in the fall of 2014 just before I ventured out to start my travels. I found about this school through following Rachel Roddy on Instagram and when I inquired to see what they were all about I fell in love with their philosophy of thinking and exploring food.  I arrived at Case Vecchie in February 2015 and helped in the beginning stages of plan for the first year of Cook the Farm and created an online informational brochure and returned again in February 2016 to help see the program come to life and help document the weeks through photography and illustration.

Cook the Farm is more than just a cooking program or about the study of food and how we grow it. It is a way of life, it will change the way you see food and farming. Even myself who I consider to be very invested in food culture/literacy and cooking, the program changed the way I think about food and made me understand new complexities and give me a deeper understanding and appreciation of food culture.

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Learning to butcher ‘suino nero’ the wild Sicilian boar.

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Learning and tasting the complexities of Sicilian wines.

Wine week - learning to prune the vines.

Wine week – learning to prune the vines.

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Foraging with etnobotanist Andrea Pieroni.

The great herd - a day spent outside shadowing a local shepherd and cheese-maker.

The great herd – a day spent outside shadowing a local shepherd and cheese-maker.

There were so many precious moments that I got to experience through the program. One of my biggest highlights was spending the day with Fillipo and his family, a Sicilian shepherd and cheesemaker, the week dedicated to wine changed my total though process on wine and really got me invested in the natural wine world (I didn’t realize I have the same ethics of food in the wine world – quality product, little intervention to let the flavour of the terroir shine through). The week of sweets where we had the incredible pastry chef Maria Grammatico come visit us to share stories from her life of growing up in the nun’s convent in Erice and sharing how to make her famous cassata (Sicilian ricotta cake with candied fruit). I revisited foraging in Sicily with Andrea Pierone, a professor from the University of Gastronomic Sciences who came to visit and share his incredible enthusiasm and knowledge on wild plants and foraging. To the week of honey and nuts where we had a local beekeeper come to talk about the special Sicilian black bee and taste new kinds of honey like cardoon and dill.

I could write pages really about all the amazing moments and experiences throughout my weeks at Cook the Farm. The things that have stuck with me the most are the stronger relationship I built with food and farming  to the special bonds that I made with my classmates and co-workers. Gathering at the table to share a meal at the end of the day in the Case Vecchie kitchen is something that I treasure so much. I don’t even feel that I really have to sell this program what more could one want than spend 10 weeks in the Sicilian countryside dedicating yourself to the study of food and farming surrounded by passionate people and enjoying endless good meals and wine with that warm Sicilian hospitality.

My friend Echo Thomas, a student in the inaugural year sums up how I feel about the program effortlessly in her words

“Before coming here, I understood how food was produced, but I didn’t feel it. After this kaleidoscopic experience of food in Sicily, the way I think about food is much more textured and sensorial… I will always look back on my time in Sicily with [Fabrizia] and the gang as a gently crucial turning point that pushed me towards honesty and clarity with myself that I haven’t felt since starting my career in food. As I begin again, I feel anchored.” 

To get more of sense of what it was like the weeks were captured on film by Elke Talbot. I’ve posted the video below for the week of wine which was one of my many highlights. We started the week outside in the field learning about how grapes grow, care for the soil, harvesting and even had hands of practice pruning the vines for upcoming growing season, the rest of the week was followed by tastings with wine experts and talented winemakers such as Arianna Occhipinti and Salvo Foti of Vigneri.

To apply and for more information of the program, follow the link to their site here.

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