po-river

Look, everyone! It’s a pic of the last wheel of parmigiano reggiano I’ll probably ever handle. I was going through some photographs and found this; figured I’d throw it up on Tumblr for all you cheese-friendly folks.

I’m used to quartering wheels and we used to have a competition at work to see who could get the closest. I left my job as reigning champion, with a total variance of 0.21 lb.

If you have never seen a wheel of parm in its natural state, this one’s a pretty good example. It weighed about 88 pounds and was roughly 30 months old. It was worth a little over a thousand dollars. Yep, that’s a grand right there.

This is one of my favorite cheeses. Once you have stuck your face between the freshly split halves of a wheel of parm and smelled that ineffable aroma you will never be able to look at the sad green can in the same way.

Some Parm Facts:

  • It can be made only in ParmaReggio EmiliaBologna (only the area to the left of the river Reno), Modena, (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova (in Lombardia, but only the area to the south of river Po).
  • It’s made with full-fat milk from the morning’s milking as well as naturally-skimmed milk from the previous evening. The cream separates overnight, resulting in a part-skim cheese.
  • It takes about 175 gallons of milk to make a single wheel of parmigiano!
  • After a year of aging, a master grader checks the soundness of each wheel using only a hammer and his trained ear. The master grader hammers the cheese, listening to ensure there are no voids.
  • Every wheel is branded and stamped, so that each can be traced to its origin point, one of roughly 400 cheese houses.
  • It is an ancient cheese, unchanged by time. When you eat a piece of parm, you are tasting what people tasted 900 years ago. You get to devour history!
  • The playwright Molière decided to live on a diet consisting of 12 ounces of parmigiano reggiano and three glasses of port a day.
  • Parm was at one point worth so much in England that during the Great Fire of 1666 Samuel Pepys buried his in the garden to protect it from the flames.
  • There are over 300,000 wheels of Parmesan cheese stored in bank vaults in Italy, worth over $200 million. The cheese is held as collateral for loans to the cheese makers to assist their cash flow as the cheese takes so long to mature.

And that’s all I got. This will be the final episode of Cheese of the Month, seeing as how I’m no longer working with cheese. Go forth, and accept no imitation parm!

LECTER’S CELL

LECTER’S CELL

Lecter knows
his cell like
a leopard would know
its cage backwards

he also knows the cell’s absence
and what a conundrum his freedom
poses the world

his mind like Hamlet’s prisoned
by temper of time not
by location

there is enough philosophy
quantum physics in a nutshell

and yet
a bridge over the Po river
is the gloss of
a culture steeped
in blood

he believes, however Machiavellian,
no human wishing
to carve his
path of elevation above the beast
should be denied.

Lombardic Silver-gilt Fibula, c. 6th Century AD

The Lombards (or Langobards) were a Germanic tribe who ruled Italy from 568 to 774. They descended from a small tribe called the Winnili who lived in southern Scandinavia before migrating to seek new lands. In the 1st century AD, they formed part of the Suebi, in northwestern Germany. By the end of the 5th century, they had moved into the area roughly coinciding with modern Austria north of the Danube river, where they subdued the Heruls and later fought frequent wars with the Gepids. The Lombard king Audoin defeated the Gepid leader Thurisind in 551 or 552; his successor Alboin eventually destroyed the Gepids at the Battle of Asfeld in 567.

Following this victory, Alboin decided to lead his people to Italy, which had become severely depopulated and devastated after the long Gothic War (535–554) between the Byzantine Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom there. The Lombards were joined by numerous Saxons, Heruls, Gepids, Bulgars, Thuringians, and Ostrogoths, and their invasion of Italy was almost unopposed. By late 569 they had conquered all the principal cities north of the Po River except Pavia, which fell in 572. At the same time, they occupied areas in central and southern Italy. They established a Lombard Kingdom in Italy, later named Regnum Italicum (“Kingdom of Italy”), which reached its zenith under the 8th-century ruler Liutprand. In 774, the Kingdom was conquered by the Frankish King Charlemagne and integrated into his Empire. However, Lombard nobles continued to rule parts of the Italian peninsula well into the 11th century when they were conquered by the Normans and added to their County of Sicily. Their legacy is apparent in the regional name, Lombardy.