The Horrifying Truth About How Parmesan Cheese is Made
If you go to any Italian restaurant that is worth its salt and even some that aren't you're going to see it, or at least be offered it. I am speaking of Parmesan Cheese. It's a staple in many Italian dishes and a lot of us like to sprinkle, shred, and scatter some of its pungent goodness on a large number of dishes.
But did you know Parmesan Cheese has a sordid backstory that has taken many Parmesan fans aback? A recent Tweet by @dtheebae got chins wagging online and I must admit, I too was "today year's old" when I found out this startling fact about Parmesan Cheese.
Okay, just for the record, I am not about to give up my Parmesan Cheese but I was totally unaware of the process used to make it. For those who know and love cheese this is not shocking but for those of us who just eat the stuff, who knew there was all of this strangeness going on?
In order to make the cheese the cheesemakers must collect enzymes from the stomachs of young grazing animals like goats, calves, or lambs. The substance is called rennet and you can't make the cheese without it. Unfortunately, the process of recovering the rennet from the baby animals is not a pleasant one. So there would be what many consider to be "suffering" on the part of the animal.
Many online commenters noted that today's modern Parmesan Cheese makers don't always use rennet from animals. These producers have developed artificially generated bacteria to achieve similar results.
The operative word there is "similar" in order to make the real stuff you have to use the real stuff. In countries like Italy where cheese is so much more than a food product, it's more of a way of life, the product must be made according to traditional methods if it's going to carry the name Parmigiano Reggiano. That's the gold standard of Parmesan Cheese and if you're a chef or cook of any caliber it's the only stuff you'd use.
So, now you know a little bit more about where that cheese the guy wants to sprinkle on your pasta came from. Just try not to think of their cute little cow faces when you're enjoying your meal. I won't because I will probably be having a steak with my pasta.
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