Reflections on Jovial Culinary Getaway
Yesterday, I said goodbye to the einkorn guests and my staff, got in the car and started the two-hour drive home from Lucca. Tears were quietly shed during some of the goodbyes, and one or two of them were my own. The culinary getaway is more than just a cooking vacation. After all the guests had departed and I was in the car alone, I thought about the people I had spent two unforgettable weeks with and recalled many moments that touched me. It felt a little silly, but a flood of emotions overwhelmed me and I cried for pretty much the entire drive home, thinking about how special my life is, and how grateful I am to have these experiences.
The culinary getaway brings together real people from many corners of the world, all with differing backgrounds and experiences. Yet, life is life and we all face our own challenges each day. We might not have time during our busy days to reflect on it all, but when people settle down to relax at the villa, emotions have a chance to flow, and the experience can be life-changing for many.
At the first cooking class, I have the guests introduce themselves and then I tell them my story. Born to children of Italian immigrants, I visited Italy the first time as a teenager, as my father wanted to introduce his family to distant relatives before he passed away with cancer. My mom died ten years later, after fighting cancer herself. I was left with close to nothing, but during this time of struggle, I met my Italian-born husband and he introduced me to organic food. He had lost a brother to leukemia and had another brother paralyzed in a car accident. We were just right for each other, and with a lot of hard work and passion for traditions, we were able to grow absolutely nothing into a thriving food company. During that little speech, I guess the doors open and I feel others at the table relate to my story, people who have survived cancer, who have lost a loved one, who have struggled with disease, all very much like me. Slowly, during the week, as we get to know each other, bits of their stories come out. A bond is formed that goes beyond our expectations of just a great vacation, and the culinary getaway profoundly connects us as a group.
I am always touched deeply by a handful of guests, and the past two weeks were no different from others. I bonded with Roger, we danced at the pastry challenge, I saw him quietly observing how hard I worked during the week, we exchanged a few laughs each day, and he showed me pictures of when he was young and serving in the military. When I hugged him on the last day, I knew that even if I never saw him again, we would be friends forever. His goodbye was so sincere, I looked into his eyes and as they thanked and admired me, my own began to water.
Jeff and Carla returned to the getaway with their adult children. They have always told me how much they love the food I prepare during the week, and how impressed they are with the values of my company and our mission to grow einkorn. We have a food connection, but it goes deeper. I said goodbye to Carla and congratulated her on the amazing job she has done as a parent. I spent the week observing how loving and respectful her adult children are to their parents, thinking I only wish my parenting efforts will result in the same. On that last day as guests exchanged farewells, Jeff was standing far off near his car, seemingly ready to depart on his long drive to Rome. As I approached him with outstretched arms, I saw his eyes fill with tears, just as mine did with Roger. His hug was tight and he thanked me and told me we would see each other again.
The gluten free group the week before bonded like no other had done before. It’s not only the connection to me that I cherish, it is also seeing friendships form among the guests. From the welcome aperitivo to the last breakfast, they continuously showed a profound respect for each other. It warmed my heart each time I passed by the kitchen to see them chatting over espresso, a cookie, or a warm plate of leftovers. Such beautiful people, together because of the getaway, many of them travelling to Italy for the first time. As we celebrated Marc and Dawn’s anniversary on our last evening together with a glass of amarone wine, the room was filled with goodness.
One morning while I was cooking a frittata at the stove, Marguerite told me I was very different then she had imagined. I jokingly asked her if she thought I would be taller, and she replied, “No, you are so warm and approachable, you make us all feel like family.” These moments of kindness are observed by everyone during our stay at the villa, and I think we all reflect on how good being nice to one another feels. We have something very special going on twice a year in that magical hillside location just outside of Lucca, and I am incredibly grateful to spend time with the community of culinary getaway attendees that has formed since I started the getaways in 2012. Each guest takes a leap of faith and makes an investment to travel so far to cook with me, and I take that to heart. I know they are a small sampling of many more people who cannot attend, but that I surely have a beautiful connection with. Thanks to all for this amazing 2018 Jovial Culinary Getaway!