by Melinda Gallo

Stocking up on cheese

The sun shined brightly this morning when I left to go to the mercato. It has been in hiding most days for the past week; the clear, sunny mornings keep ending abruptly by lunchtime. I can't wait for spring to truly be here. Even though the sun was out today, it was pretty windy and I was happy I did have my wool scarf tightly wrapped around my neck.

Since the latteria/gastronomia (place to buy cheese/meats/milk) was closed when I went to the mercato on Monday, I had to stock up on all the items I haven't bought in over a week. The formaggaio (cheese vendor) was busy cutting pieces of the different formaggi for me and wrapping them up.

When I ask for a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano, he slices me off a small piece of each. He has two kinds: a younger and therefore dolce (sweet) one and an stagionato (aged one).

He knows that I prefer the dolce one like he does. The stagionato is un po' più piccante (stronger), but is still exceptionally good. Almost every time I ask for some Parmigiano Reggiano, he lets me taste them both and I always pick the same one. I think he just likes to give me something as a treat.

They have a big bowl of Parmigiano Reggiano grattugiato (grated) on the counter. But since my trip to the deposito a few weeks ago, I found out that he doesn't use the best cheese for that. I was hesitant to buy some because I remember getting it once although not from him and being disappointed because it was too dry and not very tasty. When the woman next to me ordered some, I figured I should give it a try again. I also figured I'd give Dave a break since I'm sure he's tired of grating the cheese for us almost every day ever since we arrived here.

Instead of serving me from the big bowl, he took a piece of my favorite Parmigiano Reggiano and put it in an aggeggio (machine/device) to grate it for me. He showed me the grated cheese in a plastic bag and I couldn't wait to have some.

I had to stop ordering items because my arms were already weighed down by the vegetables, fruit, and meat that I bought before I got to the latteria/gastronomia. I told the two brothers, "Mi devo comprare uno zaino per portare la spesa a casa." (I have to buy a backback to carry my groceries back home). "Perché non ti compri un carrello?" (Why don't you buy a cart?), the older brother asked me. "Non è per me" (It's not for me), I responded. "Sono da vecchi" (That's for old people), the older brother said laughing heartily. They're probably incredibly useful, but I find that they are quite cumbersome going through the crowds of people at the mercato.

I had to balance a host of plastic bags filled with groceries between my two arms so that the weight would be distributed properly. I don't even carry a purse to the mercato any more because I need my hands to be free for the trip back home. As I walked down the steps of the mercato, looking down to make sure I didn't miss a step, I thought that maybe I should consider getting a carrello: I'm not getting any younger.

Share your comments for this blog post on the Living in Florence's Facebook page. Grazie!