Brent and I met up with the rest of our CTF classmates on Wednesday morning, in front of the McDonalds at the Palermo train station. It was a humble beginning but a reunion that started everything moving, fast. We climbed into a 12 seater van and navigated through Palermo, “Is this a one-way street? Did you see that?!,” sped along the coastal road as the landscape shifted before us. The clouds raced across the sky. The knobbly hills ran into the sea. The colors were intense — blues and greens so saturated it felt like a living photo filter.
And then we were on a barely road, a crumbling county highway, the only warning a barrier that suddenly narrows the road to a single lane, honking around steep curves. And suddenly we arrived in Valledolmo, a town clambering onto the side of a hill, as charming as it is steep, our temporary home.
Writers often use scenic descriptions as backdrops for stories, or at most a plot device to symbolize things to come. Not so for us. As we start this 10-week program, those dancing clouds and tumbling hills feel more significant, because as Fabrizia says, we are here to understand the land itself, and ourselves, as we are connected to it.
Our 48-hours of school have been jam-packed. We’ve worked with sourdough, from creating dough to shaping it. We’ve learned about native grains, the history of wheat, and measures of wheat grinding. We’ve learned basic knife skills, from sharpening to cutting, slicing, and more (julienned carrots, anyone?). We’ve walked the garden, learned about the orchard, the aromatics, and climate of Sicily, and the history of Fabrizia’s farm itself. And we’ve made our own pizzas at a favorite local pizzeria.
It’s all part of the syllabus.
“We have created more food at lower prices than ever before and yet we have food waste, overfed, and malnourished people, and disconnection from the land,” Fabrizia says. Her challenge to us is to reverse the trend, to find the point of connection between landscape and individual, culture and cuisine, and to help others rediscover it as well.
We love being here. It is making us think deeply about the land, both here in Sicily and in our homes in California, and Virginia, and Nebraska. We are drinking deeply of Valledolmo and Casa Viecche and the lessons and our community here.
And it’s only been four days.