"No, no!" I clamored, 'I LOVED it, I'm just full"
"Oh" she sighed, adding a reassuring "good, va bene" before she turned on her heel and disappeared behind a curtain that separated the dining room from the kitchen.
Sitting in Piazza Santa Maria last night, live music orchestrating the soundtrack to my evening, I stared down at the empty table before me and I couldn't help but think about how full I actually was, how full I truly am here. Rome makes me feel full. Full of life, full of adventure, full of wine, full of culture and certainly, full to the brim of truffle risotto, amongst other incredible dishes.
Today I attended a 6 hour cooking class which quickly proved to be my favorite thing that I have done thus far in Roma. The class was a short five minute walk from my apartment, in an unsuspecting building down a quiet old alley. Andrea was the chef, classically trained of course and as an added bonus, extremely good looking. There were 8 other people in attendance besides myself; a couple from London, a girl and her aunt from Glasgow, two Italian men, a woman from New York and her friend Alan, a writer, who is a New Yorker by origin but has been residing in Rome for the past twenty years (so much more to come on him at a later date). You couldn't have chosen a more different line up, as we were quite the motley crew of people, but six hours in a tiny kitchen is sure to bring people together in one way or another, and in this case, it absolutely did.
With Andrea as our fearless leader, and the ultimate fixer of our mistakes (including a small incident I may or may not have had with a giant knife while separating a chicken bone from its skin), we completed a six course, traditional Italian meal inspired by the Lazio region. Beginning with a Roman style artichoke, followed by homemade cavatelli pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil, then a chicken rolle dish that was stuffed with smoked provola, spinach, sausage, bacon and kale, followed by roasted potatoes and roman style broccoli as side dishes, and finishing with a chocolate and pear soufflé (hungry yet?!?!).
In between slicing, dicing, and rolling fresh pasta, conversation easily flowed like the wine we were given. You really get to know people whilst kneading dough for pasta and swapping stories. And it dawned on me halfway through the class, as I found myself really, deeply laughing at something Jani from England said, that I had missed this. In my normal everyday life at home, I am constantly surrounded by people, intentionally so. It has been rare for me to spend much more than one evening alone ever and I tend to thrive off of social interactions. Yet, over the past five days being in Rome alone, I have spent a lot of time with myself, just listening to my own thoughts. And while I think I can be rather funny and interesting (at times), today was refreshing in that, I didn't realize how ready I was and how much I needed some true human interaction. I was craving some real conversation and something that ran deeper than the general, surface-level greetings I have grown accustomed to thus far in Italy. I missed chatting and laughing, and it felt good to be in the presence of people who became familiar to me. Which may only make sense to someone who has also traveled alone for an extended period of time, being okay with being alone isn't always easy!
Anyways, needless to say, our food turned out exquisite and while Andrea confessed that he would NEVER serve the artichokes we had made in a restaurant setting because they weren't up to par, we all raved about them and promised to take the recipe back to our respective homes and share with others. As we broke bread and chatted about life and love and more politics (blah), I couldn't help but feel so so full once again.
Six courses will definitely have that effect on you, but this was a different type of fullness. I have come to realize there is a space within me that I didn't know was empty. However, after five days here in Rome, I feel it slowly filling. Filling with my own thoughts, with sights, with sounds, with tastes and more importantly, with experiences, whether shared or my own.
So when I thought I was full last night, bursting at the seams with truffle risotto, this cooking class surely put me over the edge. I am so thankful for the moment in time spent with that particular group of people. I am thankful for their stories, for their culinary skills (or like me, lack there of), for their humor and for their company, as their presence filled me more than anything.
I continue to find magic around every street corner here and though I am currently in physical pain because of the amount of food we ate this afternoon, I have no doubt that somehow I will make space and Italy will continue to fill me.
All my love