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Bavagna Cheese, Please

April 01, 2008

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Is it really the best cheese in the world as some say? I am not sure about that, as we had a spectacular cheese in Amsterdam that was picked by the cheese maker as his favorite cheese and other great cheeses along the way on our world tour, but it certainly was delicious! When I was talking to my friend who lives in Umbria, during our stay, she happened to get a call from her husband to remind her to pick up this special cheese on her way home. That made my ears perk up because if it was good enough to be considered the best by a native of Umbria, it was certainly a cheese I wanted to try.

Before we left Genius Loci, her son Michael gave me directions to the tiny butcher shop that had been making this cheese and other specialties for generations in nearby Bevagna. I had him write down exactly what his mother always picked up for the family and off we went.

It was also a good excuse to see more of the Umbria countryside and explore this charming ancient town, since we had not wanted to leave our inn during our stay. We rambled along the country road on this crisp November morning, continuing to be mesmerized by the colorful landscape that almost felt like we were in a painting. It was easy to find parking and we were glad to have this little mission and a chance to walk around, poking our noses into the nooks and crannies of a village that was new to us.

We made a few wrong turns, but eventually found the tiny shop which was packed full with hanging meats, garlic and red peepers. This is everyday life in small villages in Europe, but just not a scene you ever see in the United States, that I have experienced. This one, naturally, had a very Italian flavor to it. Just as I am clueless about all those hams hanging down from the rafters in Spain, I am equally clueless about the meat hanging in Italy. Remember, we do not even eat pork and I think much of this meat is pork, probably their beloved prosciutto. In Italy it seems to come in lots of different shapes, although various sausages and cylinder shapes seemed to be the most popular.

The presentation was very earthy, clean and charming, but we were clearly out of our element as we lined up with a group of natives who were in process of getting their order. It was a big holiday, similar to halloween, but it is celebrated more like All Saints day in Spain, as a way to celebrate relatives who had passed away and families tend to gather and have big meals together. We soon realized that all the people in the shop besides us were from one big family and they had the hugest order that you can ever imagine.

DaVinci was convinced that they were ordering for a restaurant, but of course since they were talking in Italian, we have no idea. It was absolutely astounding how much they ordered. Eventually, we got our turn and were pleased with our prize cheese. It was worth the wait and even the wait was entertaining. Mozart played with a little boy and was interested in an ancient scale that they had on display. I am sorry I have forgotten the name of the cheese and the shop, you will just have to ask Michael at Genius Loci if you visit this area with scrumptious cheese on your mind.

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