Staple Note:
Parmesan
29 January 2019

ΒΆ Ray Soleil talked me into venturing forth on an errand to Fairway yesterday. He seemed to think that I needed to get a little exercise, even if it was only a walk across the street and back. (Was it that, or the scrum at Fairway, that left me almost weeping with exhaustion when we returned to the apartment?) I wasn’t entirely sure that it was a good idea, because my right foot is still just a bit too swollen to fit into its slipper comfortably, but I agreed with him about the exercise. Even more, I wanted to go to the store myself, instead of sending Ray with a list, and I wanted to pay for my purchases myself, instead of sending Ray to impersonate me with the credit card. Ray had “gotten away” with doing that once, but I spent the entire time he was gone frothing with anxiety. 

Although the store was jammed, and my list was not short, we were on the checkout line within half an hour. As we turned into the final stretch, I put a hunk of reggiano parmegiano in the cart. For some reason, Fairway has a cardboard bin of plastic-wrapped wedges of the cheese right there at the corner of the long rear lane of the store and the aisle that leads to the registers. Why there? It’s the other side of the aisle that is lined with pieces of all sorts of different cheeses. The racks beyond the bins of Parmesan are filled with soups and spreads and ready-made sandwiches. And why is Parmesan given the impulse-buy treatment? It’s pretty pricey for pickup on a whim. And it was a whim, really, that seemed to motivate the attractive young woman just ahead of us to toy with and finally carry off a piece of the (to me) indispensable foodstuff. Falling into conversation with Ray, who had been helping me to decide just how big a hunk I wanted, she said that she had been “thinking about” Parmesan cheese all week, or at least since she read an article about its many health benefits. Ray said that he had read the article, too; when I put in that I’d missed it, he told me that it was online, which I suppose was an explanation. (I’ve grown very sparing about online reading.) Ray and the young woman fell into listing all the alleged benefits of Parmesan, making it sound like the El Dorado of nutrition. I said that I’d eat it if it were toxic. 

Later in the day, Ray sent me a link to Amanda Ruggeri’s parmesan piece. I learned that, on top of all the easily-digestible proteins, the vitamins and the minerals, Parmesan boasts a rind that is not only a great flavor-enhancer for stews and soups (I knew that) but also a balm for teething babies! It made me want to have another grandchild, just to see if it works. 

Did you by any chance see, years ago, Julia Sweeney’s one-woman show, God Said, Ha!? If you did, don’t you agree that the funniest of so many funny lines in that basically rather dark monologue was Sweeney’s mimicking of her mother, who was bemused by the piece of Parmesan in Sweeney’s fridge? “You don’t have to go to all that trouble,” the mother wailed in her broad Midwestern voice. “It comes already grated in a little green can!” In the audience, we all said “Ha ha ha!” Ruggeri tells us that the stuff in the little green can is marketed, in Europe, as “Parmesello.” Even so, when I was a kid, long before I knew any better, I was crazy about the stuff. Adulterated with wood pulp though it may have been, Kraft’s parmesello and butter were all that I would tolerate on spaghetti.  

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