Pellegrino Artusi,who in 1890 wrote Italy’s first modern cookbook, had grown up in Emilia-Romagna (a region in the north known for its hearty food) but lived out his adult life in Tuscany’s capital, Florence. Despite lots of culinary contributions from the south and far north, this area of Italy is considered the country’s food heartland. As part of their extensive list of extra-curricular activities, students taking the core course of the Food Studies Program had the opportunity to visit three small producers in the region.
The first stop was the Salumificio La Perla, in the windy hills above Parma. Students met Carlo Lanfranchi, a self-described farmer’s son and heart of the small, family-run factory where over ten thousand fresh Italian hams are turned into delicious prosciutto each year. Students saw the various stages of salting and Carlo explained the special text with a small horse-bone probe before the group went upstairs for a hearty lunch of cheese-and-herb filled ravioli and (of course) prosciutto.
After the evening and night in Parma, students left Saturday morning for the mist-shrouded outskirts, where twelve local dairy farmers have created a small cooperative to process the milk from their cows. Student were able to see the process of cheese-making from the beginning (as the workers pulled the curds out of the huge copper kettles with thick cheesecloths) to the salting, and even went in the huge warehouse where finished wheels of cheese wieghing over 150lbs each were stacked on shelves that went to the ceiling.
Last stop on the trip was the Acetaia San Donnino, a family-run business where students were able to see the six different sets of wooden barrels (each made of a different wood) that balsamic vinegar has to pass through on its twelve year-long journey to becoming Modena’s most famous product. A real hit: tasting the thick, syrupy balsamic vinegar on vanilla ice cream!