Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'Mr. President, We Cannot Allow a Parmigiano-Reggiano Gap!'

Here's something you might not know: If a cheese expert tells you that NASA once called him up to ask, "Why are the Russians sending parmigiano-reggiano into space with their cosmonauts?" all kinds of Cold War embellishments will leap to mind and you will have a very hard time getting rid of them. Scene: Cape Canaveral, 1975. A man (scrawny, about 35; taped-up glasses; his father never told him not to wear a tie with short sleeves) rushes into the office of a 50-something superior in military uniform and frantically slams a computer printout onto his desk. "Parmesan," says the military man, and picks up the red phone . . .

Which is not how it actually happened. NASA just called Max McCalman to ask about this parmigiano-reggiano thing, and McCalman explained its nutritional advantages and pointed them toward a whole-milk version of this traditionally skim-milk cheese, which would have those advantages to an even greater degree. Approximately five years later, I took a cheese class with McCalman and he told us about it. Still, nice win, Team USA.

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