Do you love mozzarella? I mean real mozzarella?
If you’re not a lucky expat living in Italy, have you ever had the good fortune of visiting the Naples area and being introduced to mozzarella di bufala? Well, then you’ll know that the stuff that passes for mozzarella available in supermarkets in the US and the rest of Europe, locally produced from cow’s milk, is nothing but an insipid, bland, flavorless, dull, vapid, lifeless imitation of the Real Thing. A travesty! I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel about it.
The Real Thing is made from the milk of the domestic water buffalo, and they’ve got such bovines in Italy. I’ve seen the beasts up close, wallowing in muddy water, because that is what they like. I saw them when I visited a mozzarella dairy in the Campania region and it was fascinating to see how the cheese was made in a pristine dairy just feet away from the big wallowing beasts.
You could purchase these fresh soft white lumps of cheese in the shop right there. You could also buy a luscious lump on a soft bread roll and eat it on the spot with a cafè to go along with it. Available also was buffalo yogurt, buffalo ricotta and so on.
The owner of the caseificio was strolling around the place, surveying his kingdom. He was gorgeous, and did not at all look like his buffaloes. He was tall and clean, with long, wavy dark hair, just like a Harlequin hero – be still my heart. He was wearing jeans and an open-necked white shirt, not tucked in, with the sleeves rolled up, very Italianish.
One day not much later I was introduced to another owner of a dairy that produced mozzarella. A very nice man, if not Harlequin hero material. And would you believe, some months later this gentleman offered my prince the job of managing his dairy. Wouldn’t you just think I’d jump for joy? Imagine, a fresh supply of mozzarella whenever I wanted it!
Well, this dairy was not located in Italy, but in a small isolated town in the mountains of Armenia, a long haul away from the capital of Yerevan (where we were living at the time), a town not exactly a sophisticated metropolis itself.
And the mozzarella they produced in that dairy in the mountains, I’m sorry to say, was the fake stuff. Made from cow’s milk. Not that my husband cared. He’s a business man, and if people will buy the cow-milk stuff, that’s fine by him. Business is business. However, taking that management job was not the career move he was looking for, and even if it was a dream job, it was not a dream location. Looking at the photo below, you might wonder why. Yes, the town is located amid stunning mountainous scenery, is a beloved place for Armenians to go vacationing, and for the outdoorsy types it’s a great area for hiking.
But live there? It’s an isolated place with few if any expats and making friends with the local people is not something done in a couple of months if you don’t speak much Armenian (which has it’s own unique alphabet and is not related to any other language.) It’s a long, if scenic, trek to the capital, and for all practical purposes, our social life would die an instant death. And in the winter . . . well, you might not be able to get out of town just any day because of the snow in the mountains and the hazardous driving conditions. My mate was well aware that for me especially this was not going to be an ideal life if he took the job, which he was not ready to do anyway. So he declined.
“I’d lose my wife,” he told the mozzarella man, blaming me.
“No problem,” said the mozzarella man, “we’ll find you another one.”
You’ll understand, dear reader, that I was quite worried when my mate told me this story when he came home that night (carrying a bag full of fake mozzarella.) Wouldn’t you think that the offer of a new wife along with a new job would be tempting for a globetrotting man with an adventurous spirit?
“So, how did you respond to that?” I asked, trying to sound casual. I have my pride, you know.
“I told him, ‘I’ve had her for so long, I’d better keep her.’”
So, I think I’ll keep him, too. And buy him one of those sexy, white Italian shirts.
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Do you have a cheese story? Or a true love story? Or an Italian story? Or any kind of story? Entertain me. I’m easy