FCS students experience culture and cuisine of Tuscany

April 9 2007

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The rolling hills, people and world-renowned food and culture of Tuscany welcomed Indiana State University students and others with open arms during a spring break culinary trip to Florence, March 5-14.

This was the third such trip for Frederica Kramer, chairperson and professor of family and consumer sciences at ISU. She, a student and Betsy Hine visited a few years ago to see if Apicius - the Culinary Institute of Florence (ACIF) might be a good fit for a study abroad partnership and an eventual articulation agreement with Indiana State.

“The original goal was to provide an opportunity for Family and Consumer Sciences students to be able to experience a short study abroad trip centered around Italian cooking and culture,” said Hine, head of cataloging at Cunningham Memorial Library at ISU.

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Italian chef Duccio Bagnoli of Apicius - The Culinary Institute of Florence works with Kayla Kindig, Bourbon; Courtney O'Brien, Jasonville; Deanna Sullivan, Plainfield. This marked the FCS program's third trip to Tuscany for its food, wine and culture class, and nearly 30 students, alumni and friends of the program participated.

Hine was first exposed to Apicius when accompanying a group from the FCS department at Eastern Illinois University. The following year, she returned with Kramer and one of her students, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“They were sold and, for the two years since, Dr. Kramer has recruited enough students for an ISU trip,” Hine said. “Some are now going back for semester-long experiences in design, and two will be going back this summer for the culinary degree in baking.”

And, with the creation of the Florence University of the Arts (FUA), Kramer and Hine are hopeful that more short- and long-term study abroad options will be opening up in Italy very soon.

“ISU students brought Apicius new energy and enthusiasm for cultural exchanges,” said Gabriella Ganugi, ACIF’s founder as well as a founding member of FUA. Ganugi founded Apicius in 1997 and has taught and lectured as a visiting instructor in the United States, Australia and Japan. She also is a certified professional chef in Italy. (more about Apicius at www.apicius.it)

“I strongly believe in international education as a tool to open up students' minds. In addition to learning our culture, art history, and cuisine, students are exposed to a different culture that stimulates their individual personality. Education abroad is a very important step in a student’s growth.”

And, Hine agrees.

“Every year the spring break trip to Apicius surpasses all expectations, and this year was no exception,” she said. “I see students with limited or no international experience transformed in a week's time. They are astounded at the beauty, the art, the architecture and the history of Florence and the Tuscan countryside. They are amazed by the food in the markets, the warmth of the people and way that the Italian culture surrounds and consumes everything. They come back to their hometowns transformed. This is exactly what study abroad is intended to do.”

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Nearly 30 students, alumni and friends of the Family and Consumer Science program participated in the 2007 study trip to Florence, Italy. Here, the travelers paused with Dilletta Frescobaldi below her family's crest at their Pomino estate.
One need only look at the popularity of the class the past two years to see a definite future in this partnership and added benefits for the students as a result, according to Kramer.

“I’m excited about exposing ISU students to other cultures and getting them to see the global differences, the cultural differences,” Kramer said. “Trips like these will enrich their lives, academically and personally, no matter what their future careers.”

In fact, this year’s trip included students not only from family and consumer sciences majors, but also from marketing, education and communications, to name a few. That’s probably because Kramer’s class, entitled “Food, Wine and Culture of Tuscany,” is much more than a culinary experience. It is “food for the senses,” according to Meredith Baldwin, administrative program specialist for the CARE Grant in FCS.

“Every student should seek out learning opportunities beyond the classroom,” Baldwin said. “Not only can experiences such as the one we had teach us about another culture, they serve to put our lives into the proper perspective in relation to the world as a whole.”

As part of the foods portion of the course, participants took a variety of cooking classes and learned about spring menus in Italy, Tuscan cooking, Italian gastronomy, the use of olive oil in Tuscan cuisine and pasta making, among other topics.

A very important part of the cuisine in Italy is, of course, its wine, and as part of the wine instruction, participants took part in wine tasting classes and learned about Tuscan wines from Apicius instructors Dilletta Frescobaldi and Marcello Coppetti. They also had the opportunity to go on a field trip to Pomino and Nipozzano - two of the most renowned of the nine Frescobaldi family estates. Dilletta is a 32nd generation member of the Frescobaldi family that has been producing fine Tuscan wines for more than 700 years. Since 2000, she has traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States to share Italian culture and traditions. In fact, come May, she’ll do just that as part of a summer Italian wine class at Indiana State (May 21-24 and 29-31) for the department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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The hilltowns of Tuscany near the Frescobaldi estates.
In addition to food and wine, ISU’s tour also included visits to the Uffizi Gallery, home of Bottocelli’s Birth of Venus and other major works, and the Accademia, home to Florence’s famous statue of David by Michelangelo. Apicius faculty also shared important aspects of Renaissance Florence, Italian architecture and art and important customs and traditions. A trip to an authentic antique silk factory in Florence - Fondazione Lisio - also was on the group’s itinerary.

Melissa Doti of Terre Haute is a sophomore transfer from Ball State University. She’s studying to earn a double major in textiles, apparel and merchandising as well as marketing and she said the trip “opened her eyes to new experiences.

“The people of Italy are so warm and friendly, and the food and culture are rich with history,” said Doti, whose great-grandfather came to the United States from Italy at age 16. “Being there to experience everything first-hand was so exciting. Everything from making gnocchi to shopping for fresh produce in the Mercato Centrale to seeing how high-end silk products are made - the trip really brought Italy to life for me.”

Chelsea Hawkins, a senior family and consumer sciences major from Linton, said the trip was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” especially since she wouldn’t have been able to afford it had it not been for the generosity of alumna Eva Goble (ISU ’41), a retired dean of Purdue University’s Family and Consumer Sciences program, originally from Coalmont. Goble, now 93, supported Hawkins and fellow student Courtney O’Brien (Jasonville) in their pursuit of this international experience.

“Eva thought this was a wonderful opportunity for our students and wanted to support the trip,” said Kramer. “She always said that she was so pleased that she got the opportunity, through scholarships as a young girl from Coalmont in the 1930s, to come to ISU. That always meant a lot to her, and she wanted to pass that on.”

“I was very excited when Dr. Kramer told me that I was going to get support to go,” Hawkins said. “When I found out I was getting a scholarship I was very excited and thankful.

“It’s an awesome experience, to see how other people live their everyday lives and to see how different it is from our everyday lives,” Hawkins added. “Italy is amazing, and I would recommend that anyone go there if given the chance!”

Amy Johnson, a graduate student in family and consumer sciences from Warsaw, was amazed by the hands-on experiences the trip provided.

“To me, the best part of the trip was working with the chefs at the culinary institute,” Johnson said. “I don't know of many other school study abroad opportunities that would have put students in contact with such an amazing facility. The chefs were well known, and those that went on the trip can actually say they have worked with them.”

Johnson, the daughter of Steve and Marvene Johnson of Warsaw, hopes to be an extension agent upon graduation in May, and already she can envision ways of using the knowledge gained on this trip.

“I can see many opportunities to use my experiences from Italy,” she said. “I can see workshops being offered at a county extension level including wine tasting, pasta making, education about foods from Tuscany. The list is endless. I would recommend this trip to anyone. It’s amazing what you will get out of the experience.”

So, what’s in store for next year? Another trip, of course. Plans are already in the works for next year’s tour of Florence and food and cultural experiences at Apicius, according to Kramer.

“We had the opportunity to enjoy the city as an integral part of the culture and the cuisine, and that’s what we hope to do year after year,” said Kramer, who’s looking forward to another spring break excursion in 2008 - and another chance to expose ISU students and others to a whole new world of opportunities.

“We truly hope to establish a closer relationship with ISU for semester- and long-term study abroad experiences,” Ganugi said. “We look forward to organizing faculty exchanges and expanding to other areas this experience abroad through our sister school Florence University of the Arts. An articulation agreement would allow students to make the most of their experience abroad and transfer credits back to ISU.

“Exposure to a different culture, where food and fashion are so closely linked to its own history, gives students an international perspective and approach.”

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Those participating in the 2007 trip included: Meredith Baldwin, Lawrenceville, Ill.; Marilyn Bell, Las Vegas, Nev.; Norma Jean Borders, Jasonville; Kim Doti, Terre Haute; Melissa Doti, Terre Haute; Morgan Fleck, Brazil; Lynn Freyberg, Aurora, Ill.; Maria Greninger, Terre Haute; Chelsea Hawkins, Linton; Betsy Hine, Terre Haute; Kaylen Huggy, Munster; Linda Huggy, Munster; Nicole Hunsucker, Medora; Amy Johnson, Warsaw; Kayla Kindig, Jennifer Kotsybar, Freddie Kramer, Lewis; Laura Kramer, Linton; Jason Lake, Terre Haute; Barbara Miller, Jasonville; Marcella Miller, Mt. Vernon; Courtney O'Brien, Jasonville; Darcy Rader, Terre Haute; Susan Salmond, Vincennes; Ashley Sowers, New Castle; Deanna Sullivan, Indianapolis; Harriet Uhlhorn, Terre Haute; and Eula Webb, Ft. Myers, Fla.

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CONTACTS: Freddie Kramer, chairperson and professor of Family and Consumer Sciences at ISU, (812) 237-3297 or fkramer@isugw.indstate.edu; or Betsy Hine, head of cataloging at Cunningham Memorial Library at ISU, (812) 237-2562 or ehine@isugw.indstate.edu

WRITER: Maria Greninger, associate director, Communications & Marketing at ISU, (812) 237-4357 or 237-7972 (Tuesdays) or mgreninger@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

The rolling hills, people and world-renowned food and culture of Tuscany welcomed Indiana State University students and others with open arms during a spring break culinary trip to Florence, March 5-14.

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