Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cheese Van

I remember as a child the rush of excitement I felt every time I heard the jingle of the ice-cream van turning into the street. It didn’t matter that my parents made five different flavors of fresh Italian ice-cream daily for the restaurant. I didn’t care about production methods, natural ingredients or flavor back then. I wanted the sickly sweet, industrially produced stuff that whizzed from the machine that all my school friends were having!

Here in Italy, hardly surprising, there is no ice cream van. Instead, I have to settle for Roberto and his cheese and salami van. I say ‘settle’, but truth be told every Monday morning, it’s like being a kid again. From 9 a.m., I’m peeking excitedly between the cracks in the shutters for the first sighting (or whiff of cheese)! He always arrives some time between 9 and 9.15 without fail. And, without fail, I always seem to be at the back of the queue. I’m not sure how my neighbors do it. There are five women dressed in flowery polyester dresses in front of me this morning. It occurs to me that one of them recently celebrated her eightieth birthday – I was invited to the party! How they managed to get to the van before me is anyone’s guess.

Today Roberto has a particularly tasty three-year-old Parmesan. With a captive and clearly interested audience, he’s cutting off generous chunks and handing them out. It’s as good as he says it is. My lady companions are all nodding their heads in approval. “It’s a steal”, he tells everyone, “at €14 a kilo”. It comes to my turn and I steal a kilo of the stuff, vacuum packed (it keeps for months in the fridge like that). I have a piece left in the credenza (sideboard) but it won’t last long and, as I’ve come to learn over the past few years, running out of Parmesan just isn’t an option. Parmesan, bread and wine; the basic starting points for any Italian meal. You simply can’t get by without it.  Roberto cuts off a slice of a local goat’s cheese. “Stagionato” (mature), he tells me and ‘very tasty’. He’s right again. I order a hefty wedge. As he’s wrapping, he cuts a slice of cooked salami and hands it to me. Now I’m thinking, this beats the ice cream van any day!   

P.S. It’s pumpkin season and tomorrow I’m going to meet Gabriella, a veteran pasta maker, who’s going to show me how to make pumpkin stuffed ravioli.


  1. Does the cheese truck make play a tune as it's coming??? I can't believe Italy has a cheese truck and I didn't know about it!

    Proof that I need to spend more time in Italy!

  2. Ha, ha, ha! Sadly no, they don't play a tune. However, it's a great idea Paula and I will be sure to tell them next time they are in the neighbourhood.