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Food Systems in Italy by Evelyn Hartono, Food Science Major

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Posted: October 8, 2015

Nothing worth having comes easy
At Barolo Winery

At Barolo Winery

The word “pasta” is what came to mind when I saw the flyer about the food systems course in Italy.  This was true as almost all the restaurants we visited only served Italian food, which was mainly pasta, and some of the authentic meat dishes. I did not find a lot of Asian or American food. This trip was the most awesome thing I have ever done during my college years!  As a Food Science student, this trip was really eye-opening as it gave me a lot of new knowledge that I have never learned about before. So much of the cultural aspect of the course was totally different from what I grew up with and what I face in America, which affect my point of view of how one culture can be so different from another. The most important thing is, it really motivated me to study harder, and be more responsible with the knowledge that I learned in class for my future endeavors.

In Italy, how you dress really matters because even when we had several meetings before the trip, the Professors told us to bring shirts that have no words them. Many people were dressed up nicely and looked more formal than here. I had never been exposed to Italian language or culture before I went there. So it was interesting to experience how many courses were included in a formal dinner. We always started with bread at the beginning, and fizzy or natural water (which is called aqua). After the appetizer, the primo (which is the first main course) usually consists of pasta, where the second main course might be several types of meat.  The pasta is different than what I find in America or even in Indonesia. The real Italian pasta is served by mixing the sauce with the pasta instead of serving the sauce on the top of the pasta.

On the first day, we went to La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, where we made different shapes of pasta and ate it. It was a nice experience as we even tried to make some shapes that I have never seen before. The difference between homemade pasta and dry pasta can be explained as the homemade pasta has some sort of “egg” flavor into it. 

We also went to several big food companies such as Barilla and Ferrero. I can say that Ferrero might be my favorite company among all of the food production that we visited. We learned we could tour Ferrero a week before we flew to Italy which was an honor as the Ferrero Company is really famous for their Ferrero Rocher ball and also for Nutella around the world.  We got the chance to see how Ferrero Rocher was made, and also some of their other products such as the Kinder Bueno. During each process, we were also allowed to try the sample, which was really fun as this visit might have been the longest among all (we spent about 3.5 hours).

In Barilla, we had the chance to see how the process of the making different shapes of pasta works. Barilla has also started to encourage people to focus more on the Mediterranean diet where red meat consumption is reduced and food such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts are recommended. This idea is based on how we can eat the food with a lesser impact on the environment based on calculating greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and also land use. It was an interesting story of how Barilla started to introduce the Barilla brand to USA, as they created a commercial based on the goodness of pasta from Barilla that was used to show the “love” and “care” from a man to a woman with Andrea Bocelli’s songs as the background.

In addition, we also visited different kinds of cheese production from Gorgonzola cheese production, aging cheese production, and even the famous Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Parma. It was really interesting to see how food chemistry works as the particle size of the curd of milk might affect the texture of the cheese and the importance of each of the process that can determine the price of the cheese itself.  It was just amazing how people figured out the different kinds of cheese with different methods that I could not even think of.

In addition, we also saw some meat production from the Prosciutto di Parma, and also the process of making salami at Villani Salumi Company.  After the tour in the Prosciutto di Parma, we got to try their ham and this might be the first time I tried eating “raw” meat accompanied by red wine and bread.  It was awesome how the humidity, and even the microbes play a role in the development of the texture, color and the taste of the meat.  This really amazed me as the food science became real.

We also got the chance to go to Marchesi di Barolo where the famous Barolo wine production takes place. We got the chance to try some white and red wine during the dinner, and among all, Marchesi di Barolo is the best red wine as it takes a long time to age (12 years).

Visiting different food production companies gave me more motivation to learn more about the science behind all food products. As I have not done an internship yet, it was hard for me to understand what type of work could be done in the Food Science field. It is the responsibility of each person in the company to produce high quality products that we enjoy consuming in everyday life.  This trip was really fascinating as it provided me with the confidence in pursuing a higher degree in Food Science field. It might be hard now when studying all of the classes and doing the labs, but nothing worth having comes easy.  All of the assignments from the classes, all of the knowledge that we learned will not be wasted.  However, everything needs hard work to be succeeded at and so do our future endeavors.  Great things will not come if we do not work for it.  Above all, I could not express my gratitude towards those who gave me the chance to go to Italy.  Thanks to this trip as it really inspired me from every point of view that escalates my passion through Food Science in helping the people to have nutritious food!