As a study abroad student in Orvieto, Italy, I am learning more about culture and people than I ever could have at university in Manhattan, Kan. As food is such a monumental part of every culture, it was imperative that my classmates and I participate in a day of cooking lessons with a real, live Italian chef. Chef Lorenzo of the Zeppelin in Orvieto is an Italian who studied in the U.S. and seems to know everyone connected with food in Umbria. As part of our cooking class, we toured a local cheese factory and an olive oil mill. Italians love to tell stories, and the more ridiculous the better. Perhaps it is their connection with Greek and Roman mythology, or maybe it’s because of the abundance of absurd leaders, egotistical artists and larger than life characters that bring about these stories and legends. Whatever the cause, Italians and their stories have also become a part of their food. Some of which we heard while touring what my mother describes as “the cheese barn.”
Chef Lorenzo told us the story behind this cheese. Apparently when Julius Caesar was fighting the Gauls in northern Europe, the Romans on the Italian peninsula were fighting off attacks from the Turks. In order to save their beloved cheese from the merciless pirates, they buried the cheese underground. When the Turks had been run out of Roman territory, the Romans dug up their cheese and were surprised by how delicious the cheese had become. To this day, the Italians age cheese in holes in the ground. Although it may sound absurd, I can’t blame them because it was delicious.
Note in the comments how much you hate or love Al for spending four months in Italy.