Journey of Ingredients: Why You Should See Italy's Modena Regin
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Sometimes, the grocery store makes you unaware of how your food got to you. As you walk through the aisles, commonplace ingredients or products have rich histories. Both Parmesan cheese and Modena balsamic vinegar are the byproduct of Italian history. Modena Balsamic vinegar served as a dowry for Italian families living in the Emilia-Romagna region. Parmesan cheese continues to stimulate Emilia Romagna's economy. I had the chance to visit the Emilia Romagna region, where I saw a Parmesan cheese factory and had lunch at a Modena Balsamic vinegar legend.
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In high school, I read various John Steinbeck works such as The Grapes of Warth, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl. John Steinbeck mastered transporting the reader to multiple locales ranging from the rural countryside to arid dustbowl. He wrote a piece for Harper Bazaar about his Italian adventures. He said, " Italy has long been a dream destination for so many. The art, history, endless sights, and incredible food and drink make Italy the most favored destination of millions of travelers each and every year"(Steinbeck, 1953). When driving along the Italian highway, I felt Steinbeck's sentiments come to life.
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It took around two and a half hours to travel from the heart of Florence to Caseifico Bio Regianni. Since we were there on Thursday after the morning production line, my family and I had the factory to ourselves. Our tour guide showed us the different stages of Parmesan cheese production, ending with a tasting. We saw how the cows are milked, machinery is prepared, and the facilities required to create Parmasean's signature taste.
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Afterward, we had lunch at Acetaia Gambigliani Zoccoli. The family has been producing Modena Basalmic vinegar for hundreds of years. Modena Balsamic vinegar differs from other kinds of Balsamic vinegars due to its strict accreditation process. A Modena balsamic vinegar must be produced in the Modena region, created from grape must (whole pressed grapes complete with juice, skin, seeds, and stems, Wheeler, 2018). After an initial three-week fermentation process, the vinegar is further fermented for twelve or twenty-five years. The family told us that the barrels infuse the vinegar with its distinct taste. After learning and seeing where they make vinegar, we had the chance to eat lunch. We paired each dish with the corresponding vinegar (twelve or twenty-five years old).
(Images courtesy of me)