People say that you rarely get chance to eat anything on your wedding day. Wrong. I ate everything, deliberately made a point of finishing every single morsel of the menu me and my husband had painstakingly discussed with the chef. It was a three-day lakeside wedding (Lake Como), where English ladies in hats met Italian men in sunglasses and dark suits. I knew it would be the only time in my life where almost everyone I cared about was together, and so it was. And as time charges on and some people are no longer here, it’s become all the more precious.
I got married in a Medieval Catholic church, because I loved the setting and I wanted the frescoes. If I think about any church aspect now (and I deliberately say church and not religion), I’d sacrifice the frescoes for coherence.
A good ten years later, and now I stand at the deli and take my place with all the other women, the wives and the mothers and the housewives, paper ticket from the machine in hand. An Italian wedding leads, like all marriages, to a certain level of domestic life.
And here we have it, the Italian deli, as featured at my local supermarket.
To one side we have the cheeses. Every area generally reflects its local produce, and remember here we’re in the north. So here in Lombardy you can expect latterie, semi-hard cheeses, to figure significantly. Go up to the mountains in summer and you will see them up there in the pastures using the old tried and tested methods.Then there’s bitto from the Valtellina, caprini (soft goats cheeses), Grana Padano made from milk in the Po river valley, and Parmigiano Reggiano, or parmesan as we call it in English. Not that it has anything to do with what we may call parmesan. Parmigiano Reggiano comes only from the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena and Mantua, parmigiano meaning “of Parma” and reggiano meaning “of Reggio Emilia.” Cut off whole chunks and taste the real thing. And then there’s gorgonzola from the Milanese town of the same name. Go for the creamier version and leave it get to room temperature before eating. And these are just a few of the regulars at your local deli.
Behind are the cold meats, a few salamis (salame milano a great choice for salami sandwiches) and huge legs of Parma ham, or what we generally call Parma ham but actually includes two types of prosciutto crudo, literally raw ham in contrast with prosciutto cotto which is cooked. The first is prosciutto di Parma and comes from the province of Parma in the north of Emilia Romagna. Whereas the second is from San Daniele di Friuli in the province of Udine in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Both are delicious, the second being slightly sweeter. In any case, eat wrapped around fresh autumn figs for maximum pleasure.
The picture shows robioline, soft cheeses deliberately wrapped in leaves to give added flavour. Robiolina literally means little robiola, a type of cheese which takes its name from Robbio in the province of Pavia, but which can found all over, typically in the Brescia area and in the hilly UNESCO protected Langhe in Piedmont.
Any cheese that’s wrapped in a leaf deserves to take centre stage, and then eaten.