I wanted to write about the ladies of the cooking school. You may have seen the Tuscan Mommas on Good Morning America or read about them in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune or the London Post. Mimma, her sister, Franca and their cousin Lele along with Elisa -who is a caterer in the states (who lives part of the year in Italy) are the Tuscan Mommas. The cooking school goes something like this: You are usually free during the day and at 4:00 you start chopping tomatoes and basil, etc on the wooden table outside over looking the vineyards of course while drinking wine. Then you move inside the farm house kitchen and you all cook together, while drinking wine, then you all eat together on the terrace, yes, while drinking wine, and then dessert-yum always followed by dessert wine and coffee. The same routine follows the next day. During the free time you can go to a near by village and shop for old linens or pottery.
Mimma is married to Franco and they have had a wonderful life. Franco was a lawyer in Genoa and they also lived in Dubai. They have grown children and 7 grandchildren. Franco is the Italian gentleman and Mimma is the Italian Grandma we all think of. She loves to cook for many and gardens during the day. Her roses and herbs are beautiful and the hydrangeas were starting to bloom. Franco had a horticulturist to come by one day when we were on the terrace and they drove through the olive groves to assess the growth of the trees and where trimming needed to be done. The Olive Grove and Vineyard care is taken very seriously by these farmers. Mimma's house is the main house and they have other buildings of the villa that are rented to cooking school participants and others on holiday. When they bought the property it was in ruin with caved in roofs and crumbling walls but they have lovingly restored the buildings and the grounds and groves. The rock walls terrace the groves and the stone work of the houses lends to the feeling of stepping back in time. However, having fresh coffee from her French Press brings you back to reality along with home made gelato made with fresh cream and farm eggs.
Franca, Mimma's sister lives in another village and we drove to her house 2 nights for dinner and cooking class in her kitchen. Franca has a son who lives in New York and a daughter that works for the International Red Cross. She and her husband (also named Franco) have probably the prettiest view in all of Tuscany. Their vineyard is part of a coalition of the "Small Vineyards" Wine company and their son is a partner in firm in the states. Franca took us on a tour of the vineyard where we saw the barrels in waiting and the process that the wine goes through from the vine to the bottle. We toured the storage vaults where the wine is aged and then shipped to Italy and other parts of Europe and also to the States. We ended in the wine tasting house where we had a beautiful sunset view of the vineyards and the hills over looking Siena. The wine tasting was a sample of the different wines that Franca's vineyard produces along with fresh made bread and olive oil, cheeses and rosemary crackers. Next we had a caprese salad and a main dish of pork with a reduction sauce and finishing with biscotti with dessert wine made from Franca's last white grape vines in her 10 year old stock.
Elisa is a caterer where she lives with her husband in Milwaukee. She also has a house in Italy and cooks twice a year with the Tuscan Mommas in Italy and when they go abroad to Australia once or twice a year.
Elisa led us on the market trip. We drove about 40 minutes to the local town where they buy their spices and produce. Stall after stall were ladened with fresh mushrooms dug in the local woods, seafood brought in from the coast of Italy, salt made from Salt mines in Sicily, and cheeses from local farmers. Elisa knew the venders who were glad to share sample tasting with us. We also sampled fried polenta and roasted peppered pork. After seeing the food section we were on our own to shop the other stalls of which I did until the market shut down at 1:00. After this the stall merchants started packing up their goods to be home in time for the customary afternoon nap.
Le Lee cooked with us one night in Mimma's kitchen. She is a lovely woman and very funny. She led us in the class to make grilled yellow and red peppers and a standing rib roast. Le Lee also has an Olive grove and bottles and produces Olive Oil for sale too. Her villa is near the town of Radda. During dinner she told us of other cooking classes and also about the villages that are near by. After dinner a couple joined us for dessert and coffee. They were leasing one of the villa houses for 2 weeks and were from England. We enjoyed hearing of their adventures during the week and their walks and hikes about the farm.
This dinner was the last night of the cooking class and we all shared good bye hugs and exchanged addresses among the participants from the States.