Shortly after Peter’s magical letter came in the mail, I discovered the Rome Sustainable Food Project. It is exactly what it sounds like. A sincere, passionate mission to source the best seasonal food within a small radius of Rome and transform it into a week’s worth of delicious meals for the Fellows of the American Academy. This excellent video will fill you in on the rest:

The RSFP is a teaching kitchen, staffed by three chefs and a crop of rotating interns. Yes, interns. Can you guess where there is going?

There’s a reason you haven’t heard  much from me. I’m living in two worlds right now– I’m an RSFP intern and a “fellow traveler”– and somewhere there’s regular old Junita, too. My internship started on December 30 and will last until March 8.

Here are some things I’ve learned over the last three weeks:

  1. There’s no getting around awkward beginnings (for me). I was intimidated by the community of Fellows when I first arrived in Rome and I was even more intimidated by the Chefs in the RSFP kitchen. I wish I had a fast forward button I could press to advance past all my silly nerves, because I always feel better after the first few days.
  2. The beautiful food the RSFP creates is deceptively simple. In reality, it’s a lot of hard work. They take what are essentially the same seasonal vegetables–right now we’re using a lot of fennel, artichokes, greens and root vegetables–and make them taste and look wildly different. Every single day.
  3. The mind of a Chef is an awe-inspiring thing. Every morning they take a look at what’s on hand and devise an incredible lunch menu… in minutes (see above). And they’re experts at creatively incorporating leftovers.
  4. Four hours seems likes a long time to cook a meal. But when you’re cooking for 50+, it’s not. Cleaning, trimming and chopping a case of fennel is not something I ever thought I’d time myself on. But I’m going to have to start.
  5. I now know the secret to the best roasted potatoes. Ever. I’ll share it with you in my next post.

If 2014 is to be the year of new challenges, I’m off to a good start!