Our fifth class was a journey into the Renaissance! We arrived there thanks to Platina’s book, entering the kitchen with a mix of hope and pessimism, mostly because the recipe didn’t mention specific quantities and rose water, a common ingredient during the Renaissance, was part of the recipe. When we opened the bottle of rose water, the smell was strong enough to introduce doubts.
First, I had already been forced to make several choices in interpreting the ingredients. While shopping, I though that it would be wise to buy whole milk since during the Renaissance there was not the variety we enjoy now (skim, 1%, and 2% milk); moreover, I decided that ricotta could serve as a good fresh cheese (I bought ricotta made from whole milk for the same reasons stated above). I also decided that the pie should be placed in a pie crust, so I bought a ready-made box of pie crust. Our chef, Dean, helped us with the proper quantities and procedures. The class decided not to use so much sugar and only 3 dashes of rose water. When I tasted it, the rose water taste was totally absent, so I added somewhat more. Afterwards, a student tasted it and confirmed that the taste had still not changed, so I added even more… After placing it in the oven, the pudding we ate was finally tasting of rose water, which was my goal. Why? As I explained to my students, we needed to experience an unusual taste of the Renaissance. Obviously, we approximated it, being aware that we can’t reproduce the exact flavors from the past.
Our class is a journey into Italian culture, history, and gastronomy, and we need to try to plunge into the different time periods: what would we have learned if we simply tasted a generic pudding? The rose water brought us there. It worked as a time machine, giving us what we were looking for: a genuine experience! By Chiara De Santi