Thursday, March 17, 2011

Valeria Brings Wine to Class

Our own Valeria's first post...

Thirty years ago I was a student at  El Segundo High, California. At the end of the first semester I had to attend speech class because I could no longer play volleyball (I was too lame at it!). So the teacher, the best of all, Mrs. Jeanette Leneman, told me to prepare a speech, on whatever it was important to me as an Italian exchange student to the US. I was reluctant, but I had to. I could not bring pizza to class, it was too obvious, and by the way, I hated that "pizza and mandolino" thing. So I talked about something else, something distant and mysterious when you are 17, but still so entwined with being an Italian. I got up and walked to the podium and I poured a glass of red wine. My classmates jaws dropped simultaneously. They could not believe at what they were looking at. Speechless. The class was soooooo silent! Then one of my classmates said "Why is she allowed to bring booze?"

I turned to Mrs Leneman who was smiling. "It's ok Vale", she said, "Go ahead, you didn't know that you can not carry an open bottle of alcohol at school." Mrs Leneman was my hero at the time, infact, she was one of the few people around to know what prosciutto was.

"Alcohol?" I said, "I brought it in because of its color and its smell. It's like being at home."
It was, and still is. Dad had always wine at the table and during summer Grampa mixed it for you with water to make you feel like a grown up. Grampa used to yell at Grandma for doing so with her wine. You could not water down such a good thing as much as you wouldn't water down meat broth or gravy.

So much for my exchange student experience. 30 years later I was the one to teach to a class of entry-level English and I thought, let's talk about wine in English class, it'll be less boring. We opened two bottles of Iuli Rossore and ate cheese, salami and breadsticks. My students were really happy and learned a lot of new words. I hoped that after the second glass they would have the guts to speak more English, but I had to push for the third… They didn't know that only half an hour away from where they lived, Fabrizio Iuli was making such a great wine. We had fun and, and once again, we discovered one of the wonderful wines our country has to offer. Wine is something we Italians all grew up with and, and sometimes we forget to appreciate.

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