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Postcards from Salerno: Nutrition Student Pursues Passion for Pizza, Travel on SLU Trip


The bold aroma of pure coffee. Pizza with a crust so doughy yet crispy, hot from a wood burning oven. Figs stuffed with orange zest and almonds.

Jane Daum

Sophomore Jane Daum found a winter break immersion trip that complimented her major and took her to Salerno, Italy, to learn about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle from those who live it every day. Submitted photo

Sophomore Jane Daum's favorite memories are wrapped up in the food and flavors of southern Italy.

And, through a trip to Salerno, Italy, the nutrition and dietetics major has seen how the lessons she learns in SLU’s classrooms about the role food and nutrition play in creating intercultural connections and promoting a healthy life style play out abroad, something she didn’t expect when she began looking at colleges as a high school student.

Now she’s eager to add the flavors and experiences she’d brought home to her projects in her current classes and into her life beyond campus.

Learn More About SLU's Mediterranean Diet Trip

What drew you to this trip and course?

I love to travel and explore new places. I believe a person can learn so much through travel.

I was not expecting this kind of experience when I was looking at colleges. I knew I wanted to try to study abroad, but I never thought that I would have the chance to go abroad on a trip that aligned so perfectly with my major.

Hearing that this trip was offered, and that its purpose was specifically to educate students on the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle immediately drew me to it.

This experience was one of the top reasons I chose SLU. SLU’s mission is to educate the whole person, and this trip allowed us to step out of the classroom to put the skills we learned there into practice. But it was also an opportunity to ask questions about things that we didn’t even know we had questions about.

When I was looking at schools, one reason I fell in love with SLU was because of what it preached about active experiences to prepare you for your future, instead of only focusing on learning through lectures and exams. This trip perfectly embodied SLU’s emphasis on active learning.

Tell us about some of your favorite experiences on the trip?

Most of my favorite memories were getting to know and work with the local Italians we met.

On the first day, we went to Caffè Trentuno, a coffee shop where the owner, Lorenzo, taught us all about the art of European coffee – how it was different and what flavor profiles we should look for while drinking it. Walking into that coffee shop and smelling the bold aroma of pure coffee that is not masked by sugary flavors or add-ins is something I will never forget.

We also got to cook with another local chef, Donatela, who helped us prepare a traditional Mediterranean meal. She taught us all about how fresh, quality ingredients are more important than trying to make up for them with extra spices. I could taste the freshness in every bite of the meal.

Every bite was extremely flavorful, although the only spices used were garlic, salt and pepper.

How did this trip and class tie into what you learn in SLU's classrooms?

SLU has an entire class dedicated to the cultural aspects of foods, which I used and applied in Italy. It showed me how much more there is to learn about Italian culture.

Churches are one example of Europeans’ rich culture, and the ways it shines through art and stories. All over Salerno, there were beautiful churches that we got to see, to visit and where we got to go to Mass.

Most of the churches had bells. Every time I heard them ring throughout the day, I was reminded of all the history that had made Salerno what it is today.

What was your favorite dish or culinary experience on the trip?

All the dishes we ate were incredible and it is hard to choose the best one.

My favorite dish was pizza because the crust was so doughy yet crispy from the wood burning ovens, and all the ingredients were so fresh that all you needed was sauce, cheese, basil and oil to make the best pizza.

My favorite meal was from Pastificio G Di Martino in Naples. It consisted of three courses of pasta dishes, which were made right in front of us, and finished with five different Italian pastries for dessert.

My favorite culinary experience was going to the fig preservation and confectionary stop, where we got to prepare figs stuffed with orange zest and almonds. We then either left them plain, wrapped them in lemon leaves to bake, or covered them in chocolate.

We then got to try figs in all the different forms through a tasting meal.

Do you see this trip impacting your journey toward being the person you want to become?

This trip absolutely had an impact on me becoming who I want to become. This trip made me realize that when traveling, I want to invest more time in adapting to the culture.

My biggest takeaway from this trip is to take time out of the day to connect with the people and environment around you. In the Mediterranean lifestyle, people walk slowly because they are not trying to rush through their lives. They take the time to enjoy everything around them.

In America, we try to eat quickly so the next group can be seated, and we can get on with our daily activities.

But in Italy, meals are truly meant to be times to enjoy the people around you and their company. Course sizes are small and there is no rush to leave, and no pressure on you to eat quickly. The only obligation is to finish each course, because not eating all the food is considered disrespectful.

Enjoying the small things in life is huge in the Mediterranean lifestyles, and I hope I start to appreciate them more, and to try to not rush through my day.

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.

Interview by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.