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eG Foodblog: divina - Over the Tuscan Stove

138 posts in this topic

Welcome to my life!

The short and sweet of it is that I moved here from San Francisco in 1984 and opened a cooking school right in front of the Central Market in 1988.

My web presence started with my first site in 1997, with a dining guide for Florence and Chianti as well as recipes online.

This is a work week for me so bear with me.

I am meeting students for a walking tour and lunch, then three days of cooking and a Friday day trip to Chianti. The weekend I will be in Certaldo ( near San Gimignano) and catch a local market and visit my neighbors, the Coopertive olive oil mill that is in full swing!

Join us!

Right now I am off to have breakfast at the market..

(My husband and I have formed a team and he helps me with the cleaning etc so by the time I get up... the kitchen is already cleaned and he is ready for a second breakfast!)

more later!

this is great that the Italy food board is also doing Tuscany this month.

Bon Appetito!

Edited by divina (log)

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divina, how wonderful. I am so in the mood for Tuscan food! happy blogging!

I have some questions right away :smile: What's your background in Italian cooking? Are you italian, or is that you 'adopted' nationality, and what kind of culinary training did you have before opening your Cooking School?

Edited by Chufi (log)

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I am regular American girl, all mixed up. My mother was raised in China with a Russian mother and a Father that was born in Paris with a turkish Father and an English mother.

My mom lived in Shanghai, Japan, Okinawa etc... before escaping when the communists came in and then lived in NY and DC.

She ended up in San Francisco marrying a normal English Irish guy and here I am!

First born.. in Memphis Tennessee??? ( they transfered for a year)

I learned nothing from my mom's side of the family.

My grandmother made Russian donuts for us( toasted bagels with halvah on them)

My grandfather made us french pancakes.

My mom made a great beef stew, curry and stirfry.

So I quess there is a predisposition for travel.. will that mix in my blood!

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I worked for 7 years at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco CA, which was 5 stars,

There I started my passion for food. It was run by Jim Nassikas and back in 1978 already had a wood burning oven for hte main dining room!

they were trend setters.

Fabulous REAL European food. Lot's of French, but also Greek and Italian.

I found my way into the kitchen as a pastry chef, decided that food could take me around the world.

I had gotten the travel bug right out of high school and I was addicted!

Italy.. who knows?

I never liked ITalian food in the states, deep dish pizza. green ice cream?

So I arrived first in France in 1984, and did a month checking out places that I could come back to when I KNEW I wouldn't like Italy.

I chose Florence to study Italian for a month so I could travel around doing research.

It was love at first site!

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I spent some time in Florence as a student, so will be following this with great interest. Where inrelation to the mercato centrale are you? I have fond memories of my first ever tagliatelle ai noci (it probably wasn't all that great, but still..) at Za-Za...

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Now, THIS is gonna be fun!! Happy blogging, Judy. May your dial up be fast and reliable! For those of you who who have high speed internet, that works even when its rainy, or windy, you have no idea how 'challenging' Italian internet is!! :laugh::laugh:

Judy, can you explain more about the oil cooperative? Farmers contribute their olives, and do they only get their olive oil back? Does it get combined? What is the government role in the cooperatives? Or is it only at the commune level?

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yep, that's pretty stunning, divina!

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Divina, when I first read this, I thought, "Central Market? In Austin?" :wacko: What a glorious view you have; it appears much "calmer" than I'd pictured it.

What fun -- I can't wait to see your life. My goal is to open a cooking school, and part of the research is visiting as many as I can here and abroad. Europe is next year and the year after, so your blog is going to be informative for me as well. Woo hoo!

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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Hathor.. the COOP near me, invested money to build the olive press and have tractors in common. they then press the oil, usually leaving oil in lieu of payment.

When I go to buy my oil, then the mill receives their money for running the place.

no govenment involved in this one. Very small. When I go on the weekend I will get more info on this.

But you bring in your olives and get your oil back. Not like one of the larger Wine coops where they crush together and then sell under one label.

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Oh yay! More time abroad, and no need to clear customs.

Molto Grazie for blogging.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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As Hathor said.. blogging in a computer illiterate country is challenging!

In FLorence, where I mostly work, I usually go to the internet cafe...

but have recently disocvered WIFI connection under my house... that sometimes I can pickup!

we will see!

working on the first market and lunch shots.

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Starting my day at the Market..


having a fabulous cappuccino and a ciambellone ( donut) at Claudio's today.


Claudio had been a professional waiter in the town of Viareggio and Montecatini when that is where the "Signori" hung out. It was a seasonal job.

He heard about the stand being for sale inside the Mercato Central when going to donate blood for a friends sick uncle.

The Bar belonged to the uncle.

Claudio and his wife Alma have had the bar from 32 years, and although claudio is of legal age to retire... the bar is his life!

here is the price list.

one Euro is about $1.30 US


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After living in Asia for so long, that menu doesn't even look like it's in a foreign language! Ah to learn a language with cognates again!

Is the mineral water really only 0.30 euros? I think that's cheaper than here.

What kind of people attend your cooking school? Do you get a mix of skill levels?

eta: What's "punch"? Is it...punch?

Edited by nakji (log)

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As part of work today we toured the town some and then toured the market followed by lunch.

We started with snacks at Pork's, a Sicilian run bar, with lots of great eggplant recipes.

I will post foto's tomorrow with some of what Benita makes.

Lunch was at a simple little fish place near me called LOBS, looks like a fish shack from back east.

our meal was:


Pasta with fresh salmon and pesto


Pasta with fresh swordfish and porcini


Spigola in Acqua Pazza with Potatoes.

We drank dessert!


Sgroppino a venetion recipe, lemon sorbet whipped with prosecco and vodka


lemon/Basil sorbet with vodka

when you serve any ice cream or sorbet with alchol, it is called corretto.. or affogatto.

We stirred it up so it was like an icey vodka margarita? or Granita with a kick


then a lemon marscarpone tart

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nakji, water by the glass. But if I went to buy a bottle of the local stuff it would be from 35 to 60 euro cents for a liter and a half.

Punch is a liquore from Livorno sold HOT. With a lemon twist.

I will have to have Claudio make us one! with cold mornings like we are getting now, it is perfect to kickstart the days!

As for students. I get mostly people with a passion for food.

Some professionals as I was a chef it is fun to come have the market right there and a kitchen!!!

But since I take so few students ( 6 max) we really cook!

already the ladies today have their eyes on the wild boar ( pasta sauce or stew?)

potato gnocchi, grilled pumpkin, some lovely salads with the new oil and tradtional balsamic vinegar.

I decide the menu's daily with the students so who knows? That is what makes it fun for me, every day a new challenge.

Tuscan Iron Chef?

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I don't eat at Nerbone weekly myself but we do stop there on my tour of the market and I offer a sandwich to anyone that wants to try, either the boiled beef or the Lampredotto.

I do ADORE eating there!

But when you are teaching a full on menu, hard to fill them up first.

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As Hathor said.. blogging in a computer illiterate country is challenging!

In FLorence, where I mostly work, I usually go to the internet cafe...

First, Divina, it's great to see that you're blogging at this time of year!

I imagine that you have a fairly set schedule for the days you spend with your classes, but I hope that if the market at Sant'Ambrogio is on your itinerary, you'll take us there. I'm especially interested in seeing different types of zucche and learning how you prepare them. It's too late for chartreuse green peaches, but are there blood oranges from Sicily yet?

There's a thread devoted to great Italian sandwiches that's all about your beloved Central Market. Hathor challenged Andrew Fenton's boasts by showing us porchetta in Umbria. I would love it if you could take us to a place with arista--like the little hole in the wall where San Pier Maggiore used to be, near the big post office or wherever you like to go. Maybe a tripe stand, too.

* * *

Not really about culinary matters, but related to blogging: What I don't understand about your problems with Italian internet service is the fact that back in the early 90's it seemed that banners and storefronts throughout Florence all promoted Apple. It was so easy to find shops selling cords for foreign laptops, printing files, etc. Nowadays, there's an internet business on virtually every commercial block. Is domestic service so bad because most people rely on these businesses and don't have connections at home?

* * *

P.S. Just saw your new post. Sigh. Thanks for showing the price list after your breakfast this morning which all of us North Americans can use to compare to our options.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Internet first.

I am at an internet place now... so I pay by the minute for fast service. that is ok.

But at home in FLorence with my regualr phone, I was only getting a 35K connection!

that is horrible!

At my home in Certaldo I get 54K.

I was paying for theISDN line which allowed me to get phone calls and be online at the same time and was supposed to double my speed!

no luck so I had them remove it.

I won't be going to San Ambrogio for work sorry!

I shop San Lorenzo.

I did however already take a pumpkin shot for you.



Monday is a slow day at the market so there was not a whole porchetta ( I get mine at PORKS) and will also show you the pig parts!

After my presentation at IACP last year with Fergus Henderson... I am the Diva of going whole hog, there are some great shots and recipes on my whole hog blog..

We will got for tripe of course and a lesson in bodyparts! not for the weak!

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I was a regular at Internet Train in florence... there's one not far from where you are - my street names in florence are deserting me... so that's where I'm picturing you.

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