On the trail of real formaggio

Posted July 9th, 2006 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Living in Post-Normal Times, Trip reports, Tuscanophilia

Last summer about this time, Arianna Huffington wrote a post about cheese-gate and the trail of phony formaggio that I always intended to blog something about. Now I’m hot on the trail of real formaggio, here is my two cents. A few days ago, on a day trip north with a few relatives, we stopped in Parma for the real thing and I learned the difference in taste between parmesan made from the milk of cows grazed in the mountains from that made from cows grazed in the valley and in the hills. But if it isn’t from Parma, it isn’t Parmigiano. There are big signs on the road that let you know when you are entering into the zone of origin of Parmigiano Reggiano. Cheeses from neighboring regions made in the same way, are not called Parmesan. Instead, the proper name for the type of cheese is “grana” as in Grana Padano and Trentin Grana.

Now I’m sitting by a window that looks out over a grove of olive trees at the base of the Pisan Hills, said to be inhabited by wild boars, but I haven’t seen any yet myself. I also ate a few plums, right from a plum tree, and two days ago, in the nearby town of San Piero, picked up a big bag of the pine nuts for which this place is also known, because they come from a species of pine that can be found only along this narrow coastal region and are tastier than any you can find anywhere else.

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