Outside of the Classroom: The Shortest Distance Between Two People

Gastronomy students are always busy, both inside the classroom and out. On the rare occasion that school is not in session, students take advantage of the chance to get away and explore life outside of the program. In this mini series, students will recount their 2014 Spring Break to provide insight into gastronomy life outside of school.

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by Briana Witt

On October 26th of last year, I received an unusual envelope in my mailbox. It was not addressed.  It was not postmarked.  The only thing written on it was my name.  Inside the envelope was this card: Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 1.43.34 PM  

"Pack your suitcases, it's time to visit a friend!"
“Pack your suitcases, it’s time to visit a friend!”

Along with the card came money enough for a plane ticket.  It took me a while to work through my confusion, but I finally realized that an anonymous person was sending me on a trip to Italy to visit my best friend, Brie, who had moved there for graduate school.

Brie and I have been friends since we were eight.  We lived near (and sometimes with) each other from elementary school through college. When we reached the age of twenty-seven, we both decided to attend graduate school. For the first time our interests took us in very different directions.  I moved to Boston to attend the Gastronomy program, and she moved to Italy to study International Relations.

Brie and I
Brie and I

Brie was just as excited as I was about the mysterious gift, and it wasn’t long before I booked a flight to Italy for Spring Break.  The trip began at her home-base in Bologna.  Bologna is commonly referred to as La Grassa, or The Fat.  My first meal in Italy was a sandwich featuring one of Bologna’s most famous food items – mortadella.   Meat is a big deal in Bologna.  Some of the markets and butcher shops that we walked past had meat hanging in layers so thick that we couldn’t see the walls.

Bologna, Italy
Bologna, Italy

While in Bologna, there was a short period of time when Brie had to attend class.   I used the opportunity to hang out at a local bookstore and learn about Italian writers.  As a lover of books, I like to link authors with places that I visit.  I found out that Italy has what is known as the Tre Corone, or Three Crowns of Italian literature.  These authors are Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Dante.  I had yet to read anything by Dante, and since I usually don’t leave a bookstore without making a purchase, I bought The Divine Comedy.  Reading was a great way to pass time on the train rides to Rome, Venice, and Florence.

The most memorable food experience of the trip took place in Florence.  I read in a National Geographic travel book that trippa, or tripe, is a traditional street food in Florence.  It is usually served on a roll and topped with a green or red sauce.  For some reason, I assumed that tripe was a type of fish.  It didn’t even occur to me to look up a definition.  By the time I was a few bites into the sandwich, I realized that tripe didn’t smell, or look, like any fish I had ever eaten.  It turns out that it was actually the stomach of an animal.  What animal?  I will never know.

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy

All in all, it was a great trip.  I recently found out that it was Brie’s boyfriend who left the anonymous envelope and funded the flight.  It was such a sweet, thoughtful, amazing gift.  After twenty years of friendship, Brie and I have a lot of memories but I never expected that one of them would be roaming together through the streets of Italy.  

Briana is a first year Gastronomy student interested in food writing and culinary studies.  She works as a cook for Whole Foods Market. 

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