Yes, I quit my job and moved to Italy to pursue a Master’s Degree. No not an MBA or a PHD like most of my former classmates in San Diego or New York, but a Master’s in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Understandably, many colleagues, friends and family members were led to believe that I would be attending culinary school, partially led astray by the final detail of the already unfamiliar concept: my concentration.
Media and Representation are terms engrained in the daily life of my colleagues but High Quality Food? What exactly does that seemingly simple phrase mean? Out of context, I think most assume haute cuisine or food of a caliber that can only be afforded by the wealthy Michelin-star denizen, but in reality, this program is far from any exploration of that. After eight months of producer visits and guest lectures, I’m still deciding how exactly to define high quality food. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t help but splurge on lavender infused sea salt or truffles paired with the perfect robiola, but what makes those high quality foods different from just gourmet items? What we have come to understand here at university is that perhaps quality has more to do with the fundamental aspects of a food item. How was it made and why? Where does it come from? What season is most appropriate to consume it? And although oftentimes those attributes do come with a price, for me, something like truffles only now hold a special meaning, having learned about their roots here in Alba and the rigorous hunting season that takes place for just a few months every fall.
While quality for some is simply the basic access to safe food and the entitlement to good nutrition, for others, it is the discoveries that come from the Nordic Food Lab or the freshest seasonal produce from the best organic farm. Whatever quality means to you, I encourage you to explore what food items you consider to be of distinction and why. You might be surprised to find that the items you consider to be of the highest quality are really the simplest ones around!