When most Americans think of Italy, they think food. Nicole Magpayo, a full-year student from Northeastern University, took a journey to the Emilia-Romagna region to learn more about those food products which make Italy famous. “A major part of this trip was experiencing the Italian culture, including the amount of patience and dedication it takes to create amazing food,” said Magpayo. Emilia-Romagna is the gastronomic center of Italy, boasting parmiggiano reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di parma ham, and fresh stuffed pastas among its creations. The following are reflections from Magpayo’s trip to the cities of Modena and Parma to discover how two traditional Italian products are made:
“This weekend had to be one of the most interesting and educational trips I’ve been on since I arrived in Italy in September. Witnessing the making of balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was not only interesting, but allowed me to learn about foods that I eat daily. The balsamic vinegar “farm” was actually situated in a family home in Modena, Italy, where this particular family made the infamous Aceto Balsamico Traditionale di Modena. Here, fermentation occurs during the summer in wooden barrels, each with a different wood providing a distinct flavor.”
“Parmigiano-reggiano cheese begins first with skim milk, whole milk, whey, and rennet. After mixing and heating, the mixture begins to curdle naturally and the cheese is cut into two pieces and strained through cheesecloth. The leftover liquid is centrifuged to remove any cream and fed to pigs nearby (which is why proscuitto di parma tastes so good!). Each cheese spends one day in a wooden molding, one day in a steel molding, a month in a salt-water bath, and finally two or more years in the warehouse.”
In addition to this gastronomic journey, Magpayo will continue to learn more about the role food and wine play in Italian culture. She is currently enrolled in The Culture and History of Food in Italy, one of the most popular courses offered at Umbra.