Wednesday, February 24, 2016

No Trees Were Harmed In The Making Of This Cheese...

Just say cheese!
I feel sorry for people who don't live near a major city. People who are forced by geography to only shop in chain grocery conglomerates and dine in franchised restaurants. These people don't know the splendor of walking city blocks that divide into small neighborhoods where ethnic vendors specialize in selling the foods of their cultures. I live just outside of Philadelphia where in 10 minutes I can visit German Town, China Town, Queen Village (great Irish bars) and of course, the Italian Market along 9th St. in South Philly.
It's where butcher shops still cut your veal into paper thin slices. It's where any Sunday morning will find a line outside of Sarcone's bakery where the aroma of hot crusty bread wafts into the street. After all, Sunday, in this town within a city,  a pot of gravy is on the stove in every brick rowhome that lines the narrow streets, and you can't have gravy without bread. It's illegal.

And mixed in this street of butchers, fruit vendors and bakers, are fabulous shops where aged cheeses hang from ropes in store front windows. And I promise you, none... not one, will have wood filler mixed in. Just a simple coagulation of milk protein and fat from cows, buffalo, goats or sheep. The way nature intended.

77 years young and still going strong
The discloser from the Huffington Post recently that most, if not all, grocery store shelved containers of Parmesan also contain a form of wood pulp known as cellulose, a.k.a. "dietary fiber" was unsettling to me. It is not harmful and usually passes through your digestive track without leaving splinters in your colon. It's also...not cheese. But it is used to keep grated cheese particles from clumping together in that green carton purchased by the oblivious. It's also not new. McDonald's and Burger King have long used cellulose in the breaded coating on chicken nuggets. It's actually used in quite a few things. But why put it where it isn't needed?

A few years ago, I wrote about my Italian grandmother who shopped on 9th St. frequently on her walk from her job as a seamstress to the bus taking her back to New Jersey. "As one of the many grandchildren who would often spend weekends with her, the best days for us would be when she would stop by Di Bruno’s Brothers Cheese Shop and buy a wedge of Locatelli Romano Cheese, a sharp form of Parmesan that has a salty bite. She would grate it into small, fluffy mounds, and the cousins would scramble over who would get to eat the last tiny piece that was too small for her to use. To this day, I can’t eat chicken soup without it." I remember that as if it was yesterday. A little pinch of that white, soft, fluffy mound would melt on your tongue. How did we get from that to mixing in parts of a tree?

A charcuterie of cheese and salami hangs from the ceiling!

So here is the answer to this dilemma! Go to a store, preferably a shop that specializes in cheeses and ask for a sample (yes, you get to try before you buy in speciality shops) and then select a quality Parmesan Romona cheese, and bring it home. (If you don't have a grater, and your on 9th St., walk down to Fante's where they have 42 types of them). Then, when the meatballs and pasta are ready, only grate what you need. What a concept! No coagulation, no wood particles, no green cardboard box. Only cheese in it's purest form. Seal the remaining piece in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Afterall, we may not have control over everything in our lives, but what goes into our mouths, and the mouths of our families, should be never be compromised...or, made from wood.


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