Bravo for today’s traveler! No longer are people willing to be anonymous voyagers, going from one city to another, checking into hotels where they are unknown, sometimes not even very welcomed. Today there are choices of much more meaningful ways to travel, and one of the most popular has become cooking vacations.
These are not trips where you spend all day in the kitchen, but, rather, an opportunity to spend time with the local people sharing in the most important activity of their day; breaking bread, eating a home cooked meal made with the best local ingredients, accompanied by a wonderful regional wine. What could be better?
In a week-long trip there would be four hands on classes of 2-3 hours each, followed by eating the meal, of course, drinking a good wine. In temperate weather, meals are always outdoors, so imagine sitting at a table with your fellow classmates, now good friends, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, all the while surrounded by vistas of vineyards or olive groves or views of the sea. This is what dreams are made of and you are experiencing the dream.
The experiences are almost always set in the country, away from the crowds and the hubbub of the cities. Life is a different pace and you are the beneficiary of this leisurely, appreciative way of life. But, you might have to do a little work as well. There are markets to shop for ingredients for the classes, food artisans to meet and sample perhaps some homemade cheeses, vineyards and wineries to visit, for, of course, you must taste the varieties of local wines. And let us not forgot some cultural site visits in the area as well.
And, in the country accommodations are also different. They are always in ancient structures, valued for their intrinsic history as well as a wonderful positioning, perhaps perched high on a hill with vistas of sunflowers, or in verdant gardens or vineyards, or nestled along the sea with water views everywhere.
Does this make your mouth water yet? Well, think about cooking with the best and freshest local ingredients, sometimes just steps away at the garden of the property. And these are not classes that teach you to cook. Of course, every chef or cook has their own personal tricks or methods and they pass those along, but, really you are learning the cuisine of the region and what makes a particular region unique from the one next door. You also drink the local wine, made from grapes that can be very different from those a few kilometers away.
This is an education and a cultural experience. The “frosting on the cake” are the cooking classes and the recipes that you will take home with you to reproduce and impress your friends and family. But the real treasure of these trips is the authentic, personal and delightful experience of spending a week with the local people and for a short time being a part of the life.
By Karen Herbst