Monthly Archives: January 2011
Umbra Institute students last night enjoyed more than a hot cup of Joe. Umbra staff member Mauro Renna and history prof Zachary Nowak entertained students who participated in the Coffee Workshop, offered as part of Umbra’s extra-curricular series of food workshops. Renna and Nowak described the convoluted and often odd history of that bean which lets us start our mornings, from its domestication in Ethiopia and export from the Yemenese port of (get this!) Al-Moka, through its arrival in Venice and quick spread through Europe.
History gave way to botany (Coffea arabica vs Coffee robusta, the two main species), processing, and even a little economics (coffee is the #2 most-traded product behind petroleum in dollar value). The workshop ended with a tasting of six different coffees and an explanation of their “cultural context”: Italians rarely drink cappucino after 11am, and coffee in a glass cup is considered more elegant. Renna finished up the night with a demonstration of how to us the “moka,” which in Italian refers to the Italian coffee pot, not a drink with chocolate.
The next workshop is Aperitivo 101, next Tuesday!
Perugia has about a 3 to 1 ratio of nooks to crannies, Umbra Institute students found out yesterday. Sunday afternoon saw two editions of the “almost internationally-renowned” (as history professor Zachary Nowak describes it) tour of Perugia. Nowak took the students on a sun-drenched traipse around Perugia’s center, recounting anecdotes and stories about monuments and people in Perugia’s past.
The tour, not intended to be a historical tour in the strictest sense but rather an entertaining walk around the city, included answers to such questions as “Where was the aqueduct that brought more debts than water?”, “Why is everyone’s last name?”, and “Why is the bread here so bad?” (in Via dell’Acquedotto, because the orphanage gave that name to foundlings, and because of the Salt War of 1540). Nowak, who will teach a class on the history and culture of food in Italy this summer, will lead the Coffee Workshop next week