It's all over, or its all just beginning, I have yet to decide.
After a sad farewell to my beloved Guardigrele, Luca, the Tinari family, and the entire staff of Villa Maiella I boarded a train and headed to Bologna for the weekend. I met up with Pete and we did what we do best, eat, drink, and sight-see. It was a nice weekend that was gone too quickly. On Monday we returned to ALMA for the final chapter of our culinary school story.
It was nice seeing everyone again. Our finals were spread over two days. The first day we got to cook our dishes, the plates we had most likely been obsessing over for the entirety of our stage. The second we were all required to complete the same two dishes, a pan-seared sea bream with julienned vegetables, and a traditional spaghetti vongole (spaghetti with clams). The entire thing concluded with a graduation ceremony and a final gala dinner. the ceremony was great, the ALMA staff made a slideshow presentation with photos of us cooking and of our final dishes. We got a diploma, shook the hands of Chef Bruno, Chef Jessica, Marchesi and Luciano Tona. I got choked up hugging Chef Bruno, it was overwhelming that moment, the end of the entire experience. I still can't believe it's all over. The gala dinner was wonderful, I sat with Pete and his parents and we all had a fantastic time eating and drinking and saying our goodbye's.
After the dinner the entire class went out for one last rager at the pub. We drank, told stories from stage, recounted stories from months past, and discussed where our paths would lead from here. The next morning was truly the end, as I packed up my belongings, said my last good bye's and headed to Milan, hitching a ride fron Tony and his gracious parents who had rented a car.
The hotel in Milan was like my cave for the next two days. I ordered room service, slept for hours, and had many tearful conversations with Pascal and Luca. My last night in the hotel I took the shuttle into downtown Milan and met my friend Henry for dinner. I could not have asked for a sweeter ending to my Italian adventure than this dinner. It was held at Ristorante Sadler, a two-Michelin star restaurant with an outstanding reputation, it also happened to be the restaurant where Henry spent his two months of stage. The food was the best I have ever had, truly. The chef was creative and inventive in a way I have only ever seen on television. His plates were colorful and whimsical and exciting. I could not have shared this meal with a better group of people either. There was Henry and I, his parents, and his roommate from Milan and his girlfriend. They were all such warm and charming people.
By the end of the meal I felt that I was making a huge mistake in leaving the following morning. I arrived back at my hotel around one in the morning, knowing that I would have to arrive at the airport in three short hours. I made one last call to my sweetheart Pascal and began weighing my options if I were to purposefully miss my flight. In the end, I regret to inform all of you, I got on my plane, and have now been in Charleston, South Carolina for over a week.
I have still yet to understand why I did get on that plane when my heart feels its fullest in Italy. I guess it was partly fear, and for that I am mad at myself. I am enjoying my time in Charleston immensely, and I know I will be here for a fair bit of time. However, I am determined to return to Italy, and to stay there. I am never more happy then when I am in that country, amongst its people, eating its food, and speaking its language.
Until then...I have a lot of work to do