New Winter Program Offers Culinary Adventure Abroad

This January, while many Harvard students will be participating in Wintersession programming on campus, 13 students will have the chance to explore the cultural aspects of Sicilian cuisine at a cooking school in a remote village outside of Palermo.

The first 13 students to sign up for the Wintersession program will have the opportunity to cook under the instruction of chef Fabrizia Lanza, participate in cheese, olive, and wine tastings, and visit historical sites in towns surrounding Vallelunga.

Shannon Stecher, a program coordinator at the Graduate School of Design, will direct the week-long program, called, “The Cultural Anthropology of Sicily Through Food.”

While attending classes at the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School, students will study permaculture, a system of ecological design that focuses on the sustainable architecture of gardens. The cooking school maintains a garden adhering to permacultural guidelines.

The basic idea of permaculture, according to Stecher, is that certain plants grow better next to each other due to symbiotic relationships. “For example,” Stecher said, “the lavender plant does better if you plant it next to thyme or oregano.”

Stecher said her primary goal is to teach students the agricultural philosophy behind the garden and to encourage them to explore the connection between food and culture.

“Sicilian cooking has a lot of history to it,” Stecher said. “Sicily has a colorful background of different civilizations conquering the island.”

According to Stecher, the development of traditional Sicilian dishes over time has interesting anthropological dimensions.

“Sicilians don’t use as much garlic as Northern Italians [and] they have a sweet tooth,” said Stecher.

The trip is open to all undergraduates, though students with a strong interest in anthropology and cultural studies will find it especially exciting, Stecher said.

College-led and student-initiated programming during Wintersession allows students to pursue a creative passion or develop a new interest during 10 days in January. Activities include volunteering, outdoor adventures, dance lessons, cooking workshops, and service and culture trips domestically and abroad.