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Do you speak Parmesan?

Parmesan from ComoDanny has a natural ability for languages. Spanish, Irish, Italian and a smattering of Latin. He learnt Italian on CDs when he was commuting weekly to Exeter for a year.

I find that keeping au fait with the English language is pretty stretching. In France I can get by if my aunt and her famous pen are to hand. Otherwise I’m mute. I’ve spotted that the French are extremely polite to each other, so when I’m forced into a shop by D, who unfortunately is still saving up for the “Bonjour France” CDs, I am marvellous for the first 20 seconds and then I’m riding a turbulent sea that erupts immediately I try to ask for a bottle of water. Danny generally hovers outside.

So I did empathise when Danny baulked at being thrown into the cheese shop in Como. It was packed with Saturday evening locals who were out to buy cheese, have a chat and follow the ancient custom of people watching. It was a good three years since he had even mouthed, “Prego.” In Rome he could talk to anyone. In Como it was just me. And when I suggested that it might be a good idea to buy Parmesan, our conversation was short. No. He didn’t want to cross the threshold of the cheese shop.
“But all we want is a large slab of Parmesan.”
“No.”
“My phrase book has Hansel and Gretel buying Parmesan on page 25.”
He snatched the book and cast an eye over the page.
“I’ll come in with you.” I added, “The parmesan will be so good, you’ll never regret this daring step.”
He couldn’t really refuse.

We queued for a bit. He hates queues. I could feel him agitating behind me. Finally I was addressed by an efficient lady. I smiled and nodded and pushed D forward. The following moments were a whirl of language and cheese and slicing and label printing and suddenly we were paying a cashier and out on the pavement. It wasn’t quite the lingering, tasting, sampling session that I’d imagined. But we did have a chunky slice of Parmesan.

When we were sipping our first cocktail. D mentioned that the efficient lady had announced to all the customers that she was being held up by these foreigners who couldn’t speak the language. Burdened with cheese but light on the language, I hadn’t noticed. I felt for Danny and more cocktails were ordered immediately.

This evening we ate the brilliant Tessa Kiros recipe from Falling Cloudberries – Spaghettini with peppercorns, anchovies and lemon, dusted with some Como Parmesan. It’s three months since our trip and the Parmesan is still leap years beyond anything that we could buy in England. Danny threw down his fork and leant back in his chair,
“Why don’t we travel to Italy every few months, just to buy Parmesan?”
Finally all was forgiven.


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1 Comment

  1. We travelled to Lille a few years back and my hubby was the same…………….me and my phrase book along with a smile and self confidence got us by , otherwise we would have starved whilst he stared at his feet shuffling lol!!

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