Morano, Pollino and Making Cheese

In other news, I’m attempting to learn about the Pollino National Park and the history of Morano. It’s been hard though because there is very little in English and only a little more in Italian which, of course, is a lot harder to read. But I have been able to learn a little, at least about Pollino.

Il Parco Nazionale di Pollino is the largest protected area in Italy and it was founded in 1993. Much of the land is still like it was thousands of years ago, according to the little pamphlet (in English) Giuseppe gave me. This means that the flora, fauna and even the people are maintaining many of the traditions that were started a long time ago. However, many of these things are at risk from outside influences (obviously, or it wouldn’t need to be protected) so they are taking some conservation efforts to save animals such as the native wolves and peregrine falcons. However, this next part that I find interesting. Pastoral living has been going on here for thousands of years. Giuseppe’s family has been here for 2000 years he tells me. Therefore, part of the goal of the national park is to increase organic agriculture, herding and agritourism to promote the traditions of this place. I still haven’t been able to find a whole lot of research about how the wilderness has changed in the last couple decades, but I’m going to continue working on it. It would be interesting to see whether or not there has been a significant effect of increased tourism and agriculture on the native flora and fauna.

Luckily for me, they recently opened the “Museo di Storia della Agricoltura e della Pastorizia” or “Museum of the History of Agriculture and Herding” here in Morano. I’m hoping to make a visit there here soon. There are nine sections all about the history of this place and how agriculture and herding have been a part of it. It sounds very interesting and also extremely useful to know. I’m not sure if it will go into anything about the native land or not, but some of the other stuff will be good to know.

Now, I’ve been getting a little more comfortable with attempting to ask questions about things, so I’m slowly learning more and more about the farm and how and why they do things. I have two weeks to learn a lot more before the American kids come and I have to teach them everything I know.

But what I have learned is pretty interesting. First, they make two main types of hard cheese; the caprino and the pecorino. The main difference is the type of milk that they use: the caprino is made from goat’s milk and the pecorino is made from sheep’s. There is also a cheese called the Grutazzo that they make, but I’m still not quite sure which on that is or how they make it. Today while we were cleaning the cheese in the refrigerators, I was asking Pina about the cheese. She said really the only difference between a lot of the cheeses in the fridge were the ages. Some were a lot fresher than others, some a lot more aged. It just depended on what the customers wanted to buy. At this time in the year, the goats and sheep are producing a lot of milk because it is spring time and a lot of them have just had babies. Starting in about July, it starts to slow down. Through the winter there is very little, if any, milk, so they make very little cheese (and focus on the salloumi it sounds like).

Besides some of the details about the cheese, I’ve been observing some of their habits and ideals. Simple and traditional living is obviously a very important part of how they do things. As (I think) I’ve said before, very little of anything is thrown away or wasted. Everything they do is to make sure that they use everything they can. This is seen in the way they make hard ricotta. In the U.S. I’d never heard of hard ricotta, but apparently you can make ricotta, put it in molds and let it age. Then you can grate it over pasta. They make it almost like the normal soft ricotta, except that it is cooked and stirred a little longer. In addition, leftover ricotta not sold in a few days is either put into molds or brought back from stores to be put into molds. That’s just one way they reuse things.

When observing these habits, it’s obvious to me that it’s just common sense to them. In the U.S., however, it would be something that is strived for as a reaction to the wasteful dominant culture. Though it’s just something they’ve been doing forever, they do recognize that culture in big-city Italy as well as around the world is different and many people do not live this way. Therefore, in many of their advertisements (on the website and in a brochure), they advertise their dedication to the “simple life.” It’s an interesting parallel to what I talked about in an earlier post about the difference between trying to find a food culture (in the U.S.) and maintaining tradition (here in Italy).



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