Monday, February 7, 2011

Pigs, Prosciutti, and Pork Fat

After a long weekend I am back at the apartment with my roommates. These past few days have been jam-packed with activity. It was all kicked off on Friday when our class had another field trip, a full day of exploring the culinary traditions in our own Emilia-Romagna.

Chef Bruno suffered the loss of his father so we had another chef come with us. Chef Paulo had taught the American class before Bruno took over so he came along for the trip. The day was an ode to all things pork. We began the day with a visit to a parmiggiano-reggiano factory which was pretty interesting but a little too smelly for first thing in the morning. Most of us hadn't had breakfast yet and salty cheese was the last thing we wanted to be eating in large quantities, however the quality of the parmiggiano was outstanding and the process of making it was truly interesting. Next we went to a farm to see the production of culatello, a specialty of the region and a product that is still illegal in the United States. It is literally the back leg muscle of a pig that is bound, stuffed into its own bladder, and then dry aged. Although it sounds unappealing it is actually quite delicious and a sought-after delicacy. The farm they took us to was massive and we got to take a look at their barn full of still alive pigs before being taken to the cellar in which hundreds of culatelli were hanging. That was the first time I have ever gone and seen an animal directly before eating it, definitely unsettling. The castle, yes castle, that produced these culatelli was where we had lunch. After our lunch of cured meats, focaccia, and a heavy portion of the cheesiest polenta I have ever had, we boarded the bus and headed to where else? a prosciutto factory. At this point the last thing we all wanted was more pig fat, however that is exactly what we got. The factory was humongous and produced countless prosciutti di parma. It was the definition of mass-production and seeing that many dead pig legs hanging was enough to make anyone rethink carnivourism, if just for a moment. Once we had toured the factory we got to sample the product and so we all forcefully shoved even more pig product into our mouths. Needless to say we were all suffering tummy aches and pork fat hangovers for the rest of the day.

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