On the first day I headed over to GiglioCooking School in Florence to meet with Chef Marcella Ansaldo. She offers classes in Italian cuisine ranging from a few days to three months. I joined her to photograph day three of her four-day Italian Regions at the Table program. Day three’s region was Veneto, so of course the menu focused on seafood: Baccalà alla Vicentina (cod, which we coated with parmesan and served with mushrooms and polenta), Cavei de’ strega alla Veneziana (literally witch’s hair Venetian style, this is the pasta we made with sepia) and Zaleti (diamond-shaped cookies with a wine caramel sauce). Until that day, I had never had sepia. Andrew Zimmern would probably not want to be my friend, but I am making an effort, as I photograph food, to try new things. Seeing the entire process of cleaning the sepia, removing the eyeballs and extracting the delicate little membrane that held the black ink, brought an entirely new dimension to consuming the dish. The pasta was nothing like I expected; the black sauce was sweet, and I thought it would be more fishy (which Marcella said is the result of buying ink in the store…fresh sepia and ink should be sweet).
Kirk was traveling alone and came from Kentucky to take the classes with Marcella. After the class we went to go get coffee and Kirk told me about his life and his reasons for coming to Florence. My time in Italy quickly came to be about the people I met – not the shooting or the sightseeing or even the eating – and that conversation with Kirk was one of the many memorable ones from my trip.