Cooking Field Trips

By Elena Eberwein, FFE 2012-13

In my topics in nutrition class this semester we’ve been on two field trips: one to a vineyard in San Gimignano and the other to the Perugina chocolate factory in Perugia. Through these trips I learned more about wine and chocolate than I could have anywhere else in the world. I was enlightened about both the processes of wine making as well as chocolate making. Before these trips I didn’t realize the effort and art behind the making of both an essential drink and indulgent and necessary food.

We arrived at the vineyard in San Gimignano on a beautiful evening and were greeted by a lovely staff member of the family run operation. We were informed about the various types of wine produced there. San Gimignano is known for its Vernaccia, but we also learned about Chianti and how it is different from other wines. At our tasting, we were able to try a red and a white wine both produced there at the vineyard. Since olive oil is also produced at this vineyard, we also did some olive oil tasting, trying it on little slices of bread. You could truly taste the difference and how fresh it was. We also got to try a few different meats like prosciutto and salami, as well as a variety of cheese. The owner instructed us on which wine to drink with what foods. It was a great experience because I feel like often people just drink wine without truly knowing what to look for in terms of taste (I know that’s how I was at least). Now, I know that red goes well with certain foods, and white with others. It’s important to know that wine’s purpose is not to get drunk off of, but to aid in enjoying a meal.

The trip to the Perugina chocolate factory was truly one I won’t forget. We drove up in our bus to a massive complex of buildings, and we could see the Nestle and Perugina signs displayed in big bold letters. My group was taking the second tour, so we got to go into the shop first. It was like heaven in a room. There were sets of chocolate gifts available for the holiday season, as well as shelves of chocolate bars and Perugina factory souvenirs. The best part though was where you could grab a bag and fill it and pay for the chocolates by weight. I tried to pick one from every container and put them in my bag. I did one big bag for my family for Christmas, and then a little one as treats for me while writing research papers. I also picked out a milk chocolate bar for my dad and a cappuccino crisp bar for my mom.

After buying all of our assorted treats, it was my group’s turn for the factory tour. We went though the museum and learned about the two chocolatiers who started Perugina. Their most famous chocolates are the Bacio kisses, which are either dark chocolate or white chocolate on the outside, have hazelnut spread in the middle of them that is mixed with chopped hazelnuts, and then has a whole hazelnut on top. The dark chocolate one is the original, and it is absolutely delicious. We also got to see the model of the world’s largest chocolate, which broke the Guinness world record a few years ago at the Eurochocolate festival. After the museum tour we got to do a tasting, which was my favorite part. I tried the Bacio, as well a their specialty truffle with dark chocolate on the outside and white chocolate and orange on the inside. Then we tried the different flavors of bars, all very creamy and delicious, even the dark chocolate.

After that, we went through the factory, and I was disappointed pictures weren’t allowed because what I saw was something out of Willy Wonka. We saw all of the machines doing their jobs, as lines and lines of chocolates appeared from underneath them. The workers were all covered in chocolate. I can’t imagine working at a chocolate factory. I wonder if you would get sick of chocolate after a while. It was amazing though to see how the assembly lines work and how efficient it was.

Where else in the world can you gain hands on experience and go on field trips of this sort? For me, visual learning is the most valuable. There is nothing more incredible and rewarding than experiencing something first hand in order to learn about it. With these field trips I was able to know just that. I am so excited to go home a wine and chocolate expert. Not many college freshmen can say they have learning experience in those fields of study.


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