Angels of Parmesan
By Stefano Rellandini
It all started one night as I looked for some Parmesan cheese to add to my pasta at home. I wondered what the situation was two weeks after an earthquake struck the area of Emilia, the home of Parmesan cheese. After dinner I searched online for some news on the subject and found a lovely story about a team of firefighters who went to the affected areas to help recover the damaged cheese.
Around Finale Emilia, the epicenter of the latest earthquake, there are many factories producing Parmesan which, alongside agriculture, is the core business of the region.
When I arrived at the factory I saw that the situation remained difficult for the owner as all the cheese lay on the ground or had collapsed on the counter. Firefighters were constantly working to remove the cheese. Looking around the warehouse I wondered why the farmers had waited for the special team of firefighters to remove the cheese and not used local volunteers instead.
I then understood why. The team comes from the mountainous region where they do a lot of climbing and know how to work on greasy and slippery surfaces. Even walking on the ground in the warehouse was almost impossible as the 24-month-old cheese was so greasy.
The firefighters took care of the Parmesan cheese, almost as if they were helping a person during an earthquake. They knew that there wasn’t much time to lose. As the cheese was badly damaged they needed to work quickly and securely to do the job.
Most of the last two year’s work had collapsed in just 30 seconds. Inside the warehouse there was around 36,000 Parmesan cheese wheels waiting for the right time to be moved to the markets. Now, with the help of the firefighters the farmers were beginning to recover and check the condition of as many as possible cheese wheels. The cheese wheels were heavy and slippery so they needed to be moved manually one by one. The firefighters had to be cautious and took frequent breaks. They also helped the owners with their regular duties. Slowly, day by day, they were recovering. After the condition of the cheese was checked by the proper authorities it was prepared to be sold online in small slices, in order to save as much of the famous cheese as possible.
Without the firefighters help, this would have been a mission impossible. That is why they are called the “Angels of Parmesan.”