It is hard to believe I am at the halfway point in the semester. Highlights from this week include catacombs, mausoleums, a day trip to Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este, and a weekend trip to Florence. My week would not be complete, however, without dessert. Last night Temple University hosted a Tiramisu night, with the help of Gianni and several faculty. This was a chance for me to learn how to make a classic Italian dessert I have had many times.
Tiramisu night was not just a baking lesson, but a competition complete with judges and a pizza party prize. With a program as large as Temple’s, it is not easy to meet everyone in three weeks. This means that when we were placed into eight random teams, it was inevitable some team members would not know each other. With the charismatic Gianni as host, though, this did not matter.
With the exception of one member of my team, none of us had ever made this dish before. Even the Temple faculty member helping our team had limited experience with Tiramisu. The clock was ticking and we quickly divided into two groups. My group made the batter for the lady fingers, while the other made the cream filling for the layers. We were given basic directions, but the competitive nature of this forced us to get creative and think outside the box.
As Gianni spoke encouragement into a microphone, the noise in the room grew with excitement and tension. The recipe quickly became mere guidelines as my group went from strangers to teammates struggling to figure out the perfect mixture of coffee with a small splash of wine. First our coffee was far too weak, but we then went too far and decided to balance it out with sugar. Finally, we felt confident in our mixture just as the other half finished the cream mixture for the layers.
At this point we were a well-oiled machine, dipping and layering lady fingers in rapid succession as Gianni warned us to finish up. Of course, presentation is a large part of winning this competition. We finished off our dish with a cinnamon layer in the shape of Italy with crumbled lady fingers as the Mediterranean. Traditionally, tiramisu is then refrigerated for several hours, but for our purposes we only had twenty minutes.
In these twenty minutes, a mini-competition took place in which we had to name as many dishes as possible from a scene of Eat, Pray, Love. Immediately, the team crowded around a piece of paper and frantically whispered the plethora of dishes we saw. Both unfortunately and fortunately, I learned there are plenty of Italian dishes I still need to try. Although we lost the competition, we still felt hope for the tiramisu.
Following a gameshow like presentation of each team’s dish, the excitement in the room was growing as the judges began tasting each dish and whispering to each other. Despite our high hopes and creativity, another team managed to make a better dish (or so the judges say). It may have hurt our pride and a pizza party sounded wonderful, but I was still grateful for the new dessert dish I could make and the friends I made on that team. I went on this program to learn more about Italy and its place in the EU, but between staying in the Residence and programs Temple provides, it has been incredible finding people to share this experience with.