Monday, February 22, 2010

Parmesan Rhymes with Courtesan


While grating Parmigiano the other night while setting up the mise en place for risotto, it hit me what a great invention the whole block of cheese was. I mean, it had to be invented in my lifetime, for until I escaped from home went to college I would have bet my life that parmesan only came in green cardboard cylinders. Which is one way to say, my god, I've lived through a food revolution, haven't I? Growing up I thought my mom was a killer cook, but it wasn't till I started cooking myself that it hit me she killed more than she cooked, too often--just ask any vegetable that tended to be served as if she were feeding a family of hockey players who couldn't afford dentures. And I won't even get into Slovak food, which answers the culinary question, how many carbohydrates can you fit in one dish?

But my mom did do Italian passably well, making meatballs and sauce from scratch, even. So it's telling when things needed to get cheesy, out came the Kraft's, so much like cheese it doesn't need refrigeration. I love the photo above and its claim "the original flavor enhancer," which is vague enough to mean nothing, beyond a possible lawsuit from Accent, which I also remember in our 1970s spice cabinet. At least our kitchen appliances weren't avocado green.

So we certainly took cheese for granted, or for grated, as the case may be. Now I'm too sophisticated for that, of course, doing my cheese shopping at a proper cheese shop and brandishing my MicroPlaner with abandon at the slightest need for cheese (or zest--what handy tools). The work seems to make the food even better, somehow, or that's what I hope to think. I'm sure it's nothing about the distance I hope to make with even the smallest of choices, my childhood and its expiration date cabineted-away, hidden, I can only hope, by my way with words like Parmigiano, mise en place, risotto.

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