Buon Compleanno!


I pulled it off!

You see, in the top left corner of the picture, the infamous Vitello Tonnato dish. Yesterday I had to track down ingredients for the cake I made (top right), so I also got more veal. I cooked it, cooled it down in the freezer for 20 minutes, and then added it to the dish (on top, so the professor would find those pieces first). I even had more homemade mayonnaise to make more tuna sauce. And I garnished it with pretty things.

The pasta sauce was Entirely My Creation. I threw caution to the wind and just cooked, adding things spur of the moment as the sauce matured. I think I broke all the marinara rules (which is the sauce I was supposed to be making), so much so that it became Decidedly Not Marinara sauce. I cooked the tomatoes just over 15 minutes (you’re supposed to stop just before), I added parsley instead of basil (the basil plants are struggling because I’ve harvested them too much), and I made a rue to thicken it like one might do with soup. I also added some beef stock to make it richer and cayenne pepper, just for fun. Oh, and anchovies. But just a few to make it taste better. Which it did: the professor had seconds!

Surprisingly, the only minor emergency of the whole day was the green beans. After break (we went to Norsi) I went to pick string beans from the garden, suspecting based on previous experience that there would be a Multitude of them waiting to be picked. There was not a multitude, or even a plethora. There were ten, maybe fifteen tough, aphid-covered beans. I had to send Sep to the store to get some, because I’d already planned to make them and I knew the professor was expecting them. I learned later that he would have preferred me to make something out of the garden, but to be completely honest there wasn’t much there aside from tomatoes. I’ve been harvesting pretty hard recently.

And then we had cake. I totally won the cake course. The professor said, verbatim, “Elba has never seen a cake like this.” That’s all I will say about it, except to describe what it was briefly. My family knows because I’ve made dozens of versions of it before. It was a vegan chocolate cake that doesn’t taste vegan at all from the Moosewood kids cookbook. That’s how long I’ve been making this cake: since my Auntie Mery Caet sent the cookbook to me for my birthday when I was probably ten. I remember opening the box and using it that day to cook the first thing I ever made on my own, which was an omelette.

Anyway, I put raspberry jam on the inside, as a filling, chocolate ganache on the outside as frosting, cocoa powder to coat the top, and coconut as a garnish over the glaze. It was wonderful. The professor ate his entire piece even though he isn’t supposed to have sugar and told everyone for days that he wanted a sugar free cake so he wouldn’t have to eat Just A Bite. The rest of the group was telling me to make what I wanted, so I did, and it turned out everyone enjoyed it.


At the end of the night Caitlin and I, who had been separated at dinner, reunited happily and proceeded to ask Paul to take a nice picture of us. That picture is on the top left. Going clockwise, you can see us devolve into hysterical laughter as Paul continues to take pictures of us. By the last picture we’re barely standing up. We’re also fairly certain we’ve been separated at dinner because we laugh too loudly for general conversation to continue. It’s great.

Today we are going on some sort of a Sunday adventure. It’s deans idea this time instead of Giacomo’s, so we’ll see how it goes! Should be fun- it involves a hike and a beach. Those are two of my favorite things, so I’m excited!

One thought on “Buon Compleanno!

  1. This may be my favorite post so far! I laughed out loud when I read these sentences: “The pasta sauce was Entirely My Creation. I threw caution to the wind and just cooked, adding things spur of the moment as the sauce matured.” And then I laughed more when I saw the lovely photos of you and Caitlin after dinner. Hurrah for the triumph of your cake and the entire meal! Maybe you could tread water for a few years as a private chef and food blogger. I have no doubt that you could gather a significant following (ie: it would generate advertising money for you) for your blog. And someone like Aldo might know families who could afford a delightful, creative, deep-hearted personal chef… (with better kitchen facilities, too!)


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