We drove out of the center village of Parma and through the countyside…over the green mountains and around the fields of vines until we reached La Perla…another Parma Ham factory. This tour did have a small fee and was led by the daughter of the owner along with one other couple from the US. The factory conveyor line was not active so we did not see the massage and salting process, but she talked us through the various machinery explaining what happens to the ham from when it first arrives.
She opened the huge refrigerators, showing us the hundreds of legs hanging and resting in different parts of the aging process. She then took us to the aging room where the ham was drying after the pig fat mixed with pepper (looked like Crisco) was rubbed on by hand via a group of factory workers. She pointed out that not too much or too little is placed on the leg. If too much is put on, the meat doesn’t get enough oxygen but too little and it could get too much oxygen and go bad.
She pulled out her horse bone and asked who wanted to smell the inside of the meat…the concept is kind of gross if you think about it. You stick a bone of another animal into the pig leg by its main bone to smell the flesh and make sure there is no mold. Ick! But of course, Giff and I both volunteered to give it a big whiff, and sure enough…it smelled like ham. She went through all the various stamps found on the legs…the date it was received, the stamp of the slaughter-house, the stamp of the factory and of course the crown stamp…stating “Parma” . The stamp guarantees a certain type of pig that comes from a specific region and a set process for aging. It is the highest standard in the region and allows the ham to be sold at a premium price.
She explained that in the USA, we will never see the ham legs like they have them in Italy because they are not permitted to ship the legs whole. Instead, they have to be de-boned and vacuum packed to ship. Once the bone is out, the meat needs to be eaten within 6 months if kept in an airtight container. If the bone were to stay in, it can last a couple of years.
After our many questions and pictures, we finished the tour and walked into their little shop where we bought some fresh prosciutto di Parma and a couple pieces of salami. We also couldn’t resist buying a horse bone. It was really weird to sift through a bin of horse bones to choose our favorite one. How is one bone better than the other and why are we even buying a bone?
Back in Parma, we went straight to the center of town to find some lunch. We had read about a restaurant called Gallo d’Oro. So we plugged the name into our GPS and walked our way through the streets until we found it and sat down at an outside table. We ordered a Parma risotto and homemade thick pasta noodles served with smoked bacon and spinach. We paired lunch with a local Lambrusco (red sparkling wine). Lunch was good not great, but not every meal can supersede our expectations right?
We walked off our lunch as we strolled through parts of Parma we hadn’t seen yet, before going back to our hotel. Once we were back, we relaxed in our room and focused on getting some of our hotels booked for later in the trip. As for dinner, we sprawled out the remainder of our cheeses, meats, fruits and veggies while sipping on a bottle of full-bodied french wine (yes we still have bottles leftover from our trip to Bordeaux).
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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One Reply to “Day 165 of 400: Parma – Italy”
So why did you buy the horse bone? God I heart fresh prosciutto di Parma!