The Art of Rubbing Two Pennies Together

Life is full of introductions. My parents are lawyers, I grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco, and I graduated a philosophy major a few years ago from UC Santa Barbara. Since then, I have been a traveling apprentice of various trades in the artisan food world. How I got to the Piedmont, Italy, to study cheese making at the l’istituto lattiero caseario e delle tecnologie agroalimentari was long road of introductions and farewells.

I saved up some money bee keeping, catering, substitute teaching, cheese selling, winemaking, and giving a hand at an artisan cheese farm. Next, I picked up my back pack and left to France to fill an apprenticeship position on a cheese-making, cooperative farm. I picked up enough French to write letters to cheese makers in the Alps. Forty hand written letters for work got me a peut-etre (“maybe”) in Gruyeres, Switzerland with an alpine cheese maker and his family in a little chalet above Gruyere castle. After two months of hard labor, I wandered down into the Italian Alps and walked the mountain and valley roads asking for work. I searched for six days until I found work as a shepherd and cheese maker for a family an eye shot from Mont Blanc, Val d’Aosta, Italy. Several months later, the season closed and I was asked to visit friends of the Italian farmers in Turin. One young woman promised she would take me to the old home of Friedrich Nietzsche. We are still together.

In a market in Turin, I struck up conversation with a woman selling salami, who told me that I ought to look into a cheese school in the little town of Moretta. I paid a visit the first day of school and found no vacancy in the cheese course, but just enough room in the meat course. I didn’t speak any Italian quite yet, but just being surrounded by young faces, chatter, and books again was convincing enough to stay. After eight months of classes and apprenticeship with butchers, I took my certificate after passing my Italian, oral examination and called my parents to say that I was coming home. On my return, I asked my friends, Aaron Gilliam and Patrick Kiley, if they were interested in returning to Italy to study cured meats and cheese.

Aaron is currently enrolled in the meat class, Il Corso di Carne, and Patrick is enrolled with me in the cheese class, Il Corso di Latte. Last week, I picked Aaron up in Turin and returned to Moretta in the morning to find Patrick had made it to the door of the school at midnight and fell asleep outdoors. We have since moved into an apartment with two Italians, Alessandro and Salvatore.  Alessandro is a fledgling cook from Turin (enrolled with Patrick and me) and Salvatore is a young, Sicilian butcher and cowboy enrolled with Aaron.

This blog is a record of Aaron, Patrick, and my experience cooking and studying in the gastronomic realm of giants.

By Michael Kalish


One Response to “The Art of Rubbing Two Pennies Together”

  1. Charlie Says:

    Your life’s narrative is truly incredible, Michael. I enjoyed reading the posting, keep writing! Talk to you soon.


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