Friday, February 26, 2016

Salami, Toilets, Roman Soldiers And More

Getting Along With Others

   I write about food.  I like to cook.  I like to find the history in food making.  But, it’s not all about food.  Living abroad in Italy has afforded me a better view into the window of the world.   A lot of times I am able to  discover interesting and humorous trends and customs that have evolved through history.

A Shock To Sit Down
It’s a real jolt to the mind to discover the  communal toilets of Ephesus in Turkey.   My mind just cannot imagine Paul, from the bible, sitting there next to 8 or 9 strangers.  But then it caused me to think back to my father and his story of never having indoor plumbing until he joined the U.S. Navy.   He always added little snippets about the hurried trips through the snow during the night, using old catalogs for toilet paper and some sort of mention about dried corn cobs.  I can appreciate my home’s small yet fully equipped and not so public bathroom.

   Those nippy and sometimes biting cold Ephesian marble seats would be warmed ahead of time by slaves for their owners.  Look carefully, the stone seats are worn and polished from all those soft derrieres.

Do It Yourself Service
In the past as an educator I had to supplement my income during the summer by painting houses.  My Kelly Moore paint dealer provided the exact color through a computerized colorizing system.  This photo, taken in Istanbul shows you the Turkish colorizing system which consists of big bags of paint powder, located conveniently outside the door. You evidentally mix your own with the addition of water.  Good luck on the end result!  This did make for a nice photo, however.  Wandering around a city, instead of hitching a ride on the tour bus, sometimes makes for a good morning.  You see regular people working hard to survive and have a good life.  You realize that we are all together in this world.

My View During Breakfast (cam)
I explained to a policewoman at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar that we had been seeing her every morning on the web cam provided by the Turkish government.  She was shocked to know that there was a camera where she stands every morning, and looking up at it immediately began to straighten her hair.  My comment to her was that she was a good ambassador for Turkey and that she should wave a big “hello” to all her fans.  I am sure she was not understanding my sense of humor.  Some things just get lost in translation.

   Its true that American palates are becoming more sophisticated. Recently there have been a few articles on the internet concerning what America calls parmessan cheese.   (They cannot use the true name, parmigiano, on the label).  Apparently some food industry whistleblower has revealed to the public that when Americans buy parmessan in those plastic green containers,  they are also buying wood products and other fillers along with the so called parmessan cheese.  This is so American!  Pulling the wool over Americans eyes and mouths is not a good thing.  I think of Flint, Michigan!
   Italians are having a good laugh.  Italians know parmigiano, they would be banging on the doors of the Roman Senate if this happened here.   This kind of thing is serious business.
   Where I live in the Veneto the cheese makers make a similar product called Grana Padano.  They do not want nor are allowed to call it Parmigiano (a  cheese from Parma), and American makers cannot use the word parmigiano, so they change it around and label it  Parmessan.   Next time you are in Safeway or Walmart check the label.  You will see those changed letters.
Rows and Rows of Wheels
Grana Padano has a look and taste that is just a bit different than Parmigiano.  You can shop for Grana and Parmigiano having different lengths of ageing.  Older is better, harder and more expensive.  You can see in the foto a factory warehouse near Parma where cheese is stored.  Those wheels are as big as a tire on a car which gives you an idea of the value.  Each wheel is worth a lot of money and lately some makers are selling to investors stock in the wheels as the banks are not giving loans as easily.  I must mention that during a earthquake a few years ago, a huge majority of these wheels fell off the shelf, were damaged and the cheese industry took a big hit.  We customers, reaped the benefits of too much cheese suddenly on the market and it was sold at a greatly reduced rate for awhile.  Cheese starts to age right after the wheel is opened and so they had to move it quickly.   (The smell in the ageing room is heavenly)

I  Always Have Trouble Choosing
Providing plenty of stubborn belly fat, but not yet ruled out by nutritionists,  and found prominently on every good Italian’s shopping list are hand made salamis.  The first time you walk into a salami shop you are struck by the walloping number of different types, all hanging, or sitting on shelves, and  piled on tables.  You will see fat ones, long ones, stubby ones, lean ones, and ones that are strung together on heavy string.   Salamis from the South are my preference as they have a bit of spicy chili flavor to them but unfortunately nothing that would come close to even a hint of tabasco.  Northern Italians do not have a palate that appreciates heat.  But in this area you can find salamis made with truffles, mushrooms, and other tasty additives.  
   Before making an acquisition customers can field test the goods by simply asking for a small taste.  This allows the shop owner a chance to evoke sonnets and elegies about the product, its origin, maker and age, even how the animal was kept.   

Some Great Concerts In Verona's Arena In Summer
 A striking impression for any tourist visiting the arena in Verona will be the two fellows who look a lot like Joe Garigiola and Yogi Berra, but are dressed to look like Roman soldiers.  (If you know those guys you're in my boat)  Clearly out to relieve your hard earned dollars if you want  a souvenir foto with them, they will take a sword out and run it across your neck in mock execution.   Myself being a cheap local, I take their foto from a distance.  If you hang around them long enough you can catch them pausing to satisfy their craving for a good smoke while using their cell phones.  Oh,  go ahead and make a good gesture of a few euros!  It will make a good foto and a windy story back home.  I am thinking those costumes must be itchy and cold in the winter and it is a heck of a way to make a living nowadays.  

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