Felt like leaving an old friend when my Pennsylvania host, Judy, settled me into the wheelchair at the Philadelphia airport on March 16th. Wheelchair consignment to an aircraft has its positive side: rapid passage through security. But after nearly two weeks on crutches, I was at countdown point: just two more flights to go in my “embattled” state.
The flight to Charlotte, North Carolina was a short one and host Rhea awaited with a warm welcome.
Having toured and cooked with me in Umbria, Rhea and husband Mark were ready for an encore: this time with two cooking classes at their lovely Charlotte home. A simpatico group gathered for the first class that night: many were work colleagues of Mark, who is a doctor. But not only: I finally met Trish and John and Bryan, too. We’d been corresponding via email on their upcoming May trip to Umbria. Now we could do some face-to-face trip-planning….over cutting boards!
After my DVD introduction on Umbrian rural cuisine, we all moved into the kitchen to cook: everyone donned aprons, grabbed a knife and pitched right in. Our meal came together rapidly in an atmosphere of buoyant collaboration. Dr. Ilya, good chopping and you’ve mastered the art of the Italian salad. Darryl and Steve, your fidelity to all the dishes on the stove was commendable! Emily, thanks for juggling the camera with spoons and knives….and Dr. Mitch, thanks for taking the time after dinner to check my injured ankle!
March 17th was a pause day and gave me time to meet a cousin: another Anne Marie Robichaud! As I had learned while at the CongrÃ©s Mondial Acadien in Nova Scotia, 2003 with my brother Bill and son, Keegan, all of us Robichauds are descendants of Louis Robichaud who emigrated to Canada in the early 17th century. Bill and I had relished meeting hundreds of Robichaud cousins in Nova Scotia. I certainly never expected to cook with a Robichaud cousin – also called “Anne Marie” – in North Carolina!! After lunch together with Rhea, my “cousin” Anne Marie and I toured the Charlotte art museum together. The day wound up with Rhea and Mark at a superb Indian restaurant (for me, a nice change from italiano!). Grazie, Mark and Rhea!
Anne Marie also joined in Mark and Rhea’s second cooking class on March 18th. A new group, a new menu, but once again, enthusiastic participation on the part of all. Eileen and Scott, so good to reconnect in Charlotte and relive a bit our time together in Umbria. Mechelle, mamma mia, it would have been impossible to detach you from those burners! Glad you feel ready now to cook that entire meal on your own. And wasn’t Rhea kind to send home with you a “take-away” plate of all we cooked for your fiancÃ© who couldn’t make it? Fred, aren’t you now more proud than ever of your Italian heritage?! Anne, Paul, Rita, Roger, Christina, Laura and all, thanks for sharing the evening.
Rhea and Mark, mille grazie just won’t do it. Un milione di grazie falls short, too!
(To view photos of cooking classes with Mark and Rhea click here)
“This evening was the most culinary and social evening I can remember in quite some time……….I want to go to Umbria!” Steve
“What a fun evening of eating, drinking and merriment!” Emily M
“…. thank you for an incredible evening of education and entertainment…..I am so fascinated by you and your life (and) I so look forward to more of your stories and incredible recipes.” Mechelle D.
“What a wonderful evening of food and company…My four sons need to learn to cook. You have a God-given gift. Thank you for sharing it.”
“I have waited a long time for this night. These two nights of food and fun have been better than I could have ever expected. I thank you for bringing …friends back into my home”. Rhea V.ack into my home”. Rhea V.