Will we or won't we?
When we started to plan our holiday to Europe, Jo spent several hours surfing the net for things to do, somehow she stumbled upon Mamma Agata Cooking School in Ravello Italy, she immediately began begging for us to go, she begged for months whilst I continued to resist saying I did not need cooking lessons. I did however send off for Mamma's cook book and have found it to be a great source of tips for cooking all manner of things, little hints that help make your recipes stand out from the rest. Eventually I weakened and I booked us in for a lesson on our first day of our Amalfi Coast segment of time in Italy.
Getting there was no mean feat
The day finally came and we were up early to catch the only bus that would have us there on time, we spent the last few minutes in our room hat morning trying to download the final instructions for finding the hidden treasure that is Mamma Agata's kitchen, as luck would have it the PC locked up and it took a minute or two longer than it should have, that would end up costing us a comfortable ride to Amalfi, we missed the bus by seconds as it had arrived earlier than scheduled. Jo was devastated and cried out we will just have to ring and cancel our booking, I had other ideas and said stuff that I am going and commenced walking toward Amalfi, 12 kilometers away, hoping that I could hitch a ride along the way.
The road to Amalfi is very narrow, twists and turns every hundred meters or less in places, there are tunnels to walk through and all the while you are looking over a cliff with a drop to the ocean of around 100 meters, oh I forgot to mention the hills,there are lots of them. On top of this the sun was rising quickly and seemed to gain temperature every minute, the first 10 or 15 minutes were not too bad, we departed Praiano at 7:30AM, by 8:00AM the coolness of morning had gone and we would see the temp rise to around 29C by the time we reached Amalfi three hours later, I was thinking this better be bloody worth it!
When we finally arrived in Amalfi we were both red in the face and aching from places we did not know had existed, and we were already looking at being 30 minutes late, so there was no time to find a cool drink or anything, I found the nearest taxi and without negotiating a price or anything jumped in and asked the guy if he knew of Mamma Agata, thankfully he did, we have found since she is very well known throughout this region of Italy, we arrived at San Cosmo Piazza at 10:55 to find first Chiara Lima and then Gennaro Lima standing at the door looking for us, I paid the driver and bolted for the door, I'd find out later just how badly I had just been fleeced!
Finally we are on the terrace, eating Lemon Cake
Gennaro greeted us at the top of the stairs and hurriedly ushered us down to meet Chiara, Mamma Agata's daughter and out hostess for the day. She was very excited for us to finally be there and to meet face to face for the first time, we had been conversing via email and Facebook for the past 18 months, she noticed that we both were exhausted and began to ask what had happened, on learning of our plight she began quickly in Italian to explain to Gennaro and then Mamma Agata, then reverted back to English to tell the other guests that were all sitting at the table on the terrace enjoying coffee and cake.
What lay ahead of us
Once we were seated and provided with a coffee and Mamma's Lemon Cake, Chiara commenced explaining what would take place for our time here, it involved some time in the kitchen with Mamma Agata and a lot of eating, more eating than you could imagine, tasting all the ingredients as each new once was introduced for a recipe, then out came some bread for soaking up sauces and for covering with lashings of cheese and chilli sauce. Oh I forgot about the wine, Chiara announced that as it was five o'clock in the afternoon Australia , so it was time to enjoy some of Gennaro's wine, out came the wine glasses, this would be the only time over the next 6 hours we would see them empty.
The kitchen was well appointed, not huge but enough space for Mamma, Chiara and Gennaro to stand one side of the stoves and cook tops, whilst the twelve guests gather around to watch, listen and learn Mamma's secrets. If I had not already, I fell in love with Mamma within a few short minutes, actually i don't think it took that long. Watching her handle food and cook was beautiful, she puts so much love and attention into her work, and she would then stand back and watch you, as you ate her offerings, and call out Bravo when you added the right amount of cheese, or scold you if you had not enough. Mamma does not speak English, but we all understood what she was telling us just by the emotion and energy she put into everything, it was shear joy.
Amazing, what else could I say, simply amazing. We watched as Mamma prepared eggplants and her to die for tomato sauce, we sampled bits and pieces along the way, and then watched her put together an eggplant parmegana, once that went into the oven we were given plates that were loaded up with deep fried eggplant coated with lashings of cheese, slices of pumpkin cooked in oil and smoked provolone cheese and a dollop of Chiara's Red Hell chilli sauce, topped up with wine and sent out to the terrace to enjoy an Italian breakfast that had us oohing and ahhing all the way through, we have found heaven.
The day continued in the same vain, whilst we ate on the terrace Mamma and Gennaro would prepare for the next course, bringing us back in to witness the cooking process, participating in the making of meatballs and trying more of the ingredients, learning why it is important to use the right oils for frying and the best olive oils for enhancing flavours, picking up so many little tips along the way, even Jo was so inspired that we is talking about what she wants to cook once home.
Dining on the terrace
The terrace is 100 meters above the Mediterranean Sea with view to the village Ravello below, between the ocean and us were more terraces with the fruit trees, vegetable and herb gardens, chicken houses, olive trees and grape vines that produced much of the food we were to enjoy. At the table were a family of four from Michigan USA, Mum, Dad, Son and his new wife, then there were a couple of guys from St Louis USA and another family group of four Mum and Dad being from Bendigo Australia and their Daughter with her fiance, both of whom live in New York and planning for their wedding on January 3, 2014. They were a great bunch of people, we really enjoyed all of their company, there was much laughter and fun at the table, along with all the ooh's and ahh's that complimented the food, it was a great day, a special day and yes it was worth walking three hours along a long and winding road to be there.
You gotta visit Mamma Agata
If you are visiting Southern Italy, put aside a little extra cash to spend a day at Mamma Agata's, you will not regret it, it will be something you will remember long after you forget little things like missing a bus.
Some more photo's from our amazing day with Mamma Agata and family