At table, 7 of the 8 women from 8 countries attending IWCL cooking class, 8th taking the photo
When I came to Lugano in 2007 it felt a bit like tumbling through space and landing on a different planet. Having lived and worked in four countries I was sure my relocation to Lugano, Switzerland for the love of my life was going to be seamless and easy. Was I mistaken! This move turned out to be the hardest of my life, and for all the love I have for Claudio, what anchored me here as a woman was/is the special women I met at the International Women’s Club of Lugano (IWCL). In September we celebrated 30 years of this amazing club, presently with more than 250 members from nearly 40 countries, this is a bunch with something for everyone. For me, the book club.
Family legend has me reading at 4 years old, and whatever the actual facts are, that reading is and always has been my refuge is certain. Reading to learn, to challenge, to be challenged, for pleasure, all reading is for me a chance to escape, to be in more than one place at a time, a chance to imagine and connect. In the reading group I found my natural niche within the club at large. Since 2008 I have had the good fortune to guide the structure of this group, entrusted to me by the extraordinary women who populate our monthly book discussions. The friendships I have made in the book group form the backbone of my female community of soul sisters here in Lugano.
In June I was offered the chance to lead the other group dear to my heart, unsurprisingly, the cooking group. For years I attended this group too, and then it faded in and out under inconsistent leadership until it was recently resurrected by fellow former President (President at the time of resurrection), Sue March. Together with the honor of being the speaker for the opening monthly meeting in September with a presentation titled Food, Culture, & You, this month I shared some of my favorite recipes with the group at the cooking class on 11 September.
We began the evening with a toast and discussion about each dish on the menu, why I chose it, it's geographic and cultural origins plus health benefits. Specific ingredients were also highlighted for their cultural, nutritional, and in some cases nostalgic value. Here we are in action around the table.
This post is dedicated to the extraordinary women of the IWCL, my soul sisters in Lugano who have made the life changing difference in my world here. Thank you for allowing me to use food to express my gratitude.
Below the summary and menu from our cooking class, recipes connected to each title. Extra bonus for this post, three videos of the preparation for those indicated
IWCL cooking class 11 September 2018
Food Speaks: A cultural journey through food (as offered in IWCL September newsletter)
Since I was a small child food has been a language for me and the kitchen my happy place. From the time I was 2 years old there on the kitchen counter with my Spanish great-grandfather stirring pasta fagioli and sharing vanilla pudding with him in his garden, food has been a major player in my life. Growing up in “Latin” home, 3 parts Italian and 1 part Spanish, I was surrounded by food and it spoke, every dish either had a story or was a story in itself. My aunt’s spaghetti sauce was hot and spicy, my mother’s thick and heavy and my grandmother’s a sweet middle spot; all saying something about their personalities and life experiences. Holiday dinners were all day affairs where food was fragrant and abundant. Stuffed artichokes, fresh buffalo mozzarella scooped straight from the barrel where it floated temptingly at the Italian grocer, and raw fennel in big chunks with olive oil for a pre-dinner nibble were served in season and any situation could be discussed and solved in the kitchen.
This month’s cooking class will be a journey through the stories of simple, healthy, in season (fall) foods to warm you from the inside out. Each dish on the menu has its own story for me, which I will share with you along with the recipes. Equally I welcome you to share your stories about the dishes or ingredients, about your food experiences, and about food in general as we share the preparation of table and dish together.
Dishes requiring the oven were prepared at home earlier in the day, videos below. Here the ladies make the seasonal salad па никольский and the Date orange almond truffles.
MENU Pre-dinner NIBBLES while we prepare
Fennel; cut in chunks and sprinkled with olive oil and salt
Pistachios; salted and unsalted (in shell)
Olives green and black with pits
салат па никольский (salad Nicole’s way)
Literally dishing up with gusto. Center right Faina's Armenian lasagna (sweet potato version); top left flourless orange chocolate cake. Bottom left Esra in her full goddess state; bottom center, Sue & I share a moment of gratitude; bottom right all three desserts speak for themselves.