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031: Why your Italian "food" may not be real food

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Food fraud is rampant, especially when it comes to big food companies. In this episode, we cover a range of fraud in Italian foods, from coffee to "parmasan" cheese to balsamic vinegar to extra virgin olive oil. Discover why the Italian "food" you may be buying may not really be Italian food at all.
Topics we cover:

Paul's trip to Florida to take care of some of his mother's affairs
Our advice when shipping packages to friends and family in Italy
Paul's rant about Starbucks, well his rant about the people of Starbucks
Why can't women have their wallet ready at the cash register when checking out anywhere?
How cashiers ALWAYS ask if you have exact change when checking out anywhere here.
How Parmesam "cheese" is not really cheese, but cellulose


More on this subject, because it's important.
I don't know about you, but I don't really want to eat wood pulp, which is was cellulose if you didn't know. Supposedly it is a safe anti-clumping additive when it is only 2-4% of a product (still sounds gross to me). But these FDA investigations found 8.8% in some! In some cases the cheese was less than 40% of the product!
Wal-Mart has now be slapped with a lawsuit over selling a product labeled as 100% Grated Parmesan but had 7.8% wood pulp. I'm sure they'll argue what the definition of "parmesan" is, which could be anything since it's a made up word. But talk about deceiving consumers who think it's cheese!!

The benefits of real Parmigiano Reggiano

Again, more on this.
Because of its granular structure, Parmigiano Reggiano is super easy to grate. Most of the time, you simply break off chunks with the knife shown and enjoy.

If you use grated Parmigiano in your cooking, it doesn’t really call attention to itself, blending with other ingredients, it adds depth of flavor and a sophisticated touch.
It's also a super healthy cheese:
• It is lactose-free, making it a safe choice for people who have trouble digesting milk.
• It is a rich source of both calcium and protein.
• A serving of Pargmigiano cheese contains B12 ,Vitamin A, and a variety of other vitamins and minerals.

Bonus tip: Rinds
Don’t throw out the rinds. They are completely edible, they add wonderful flavor to soups, stews and broths. When you're done with the cheese and have only the rind left, put it in a plastic bag and stick in the freezer. When you're ready, add it to you soup, stem or broth. Some eat the rind after this or just discard it, it's up to you. You could also cut up the now cooked rind, fry the cubes, and use as a garnish.


How what you may know as balsamic vinegar is not really balsamic

True original, traditional balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale), is made from a reduction of cooked white Trebbiano grape juice. Only two consortia produce true traditional balsamic vinegar, Modena and neighboring Reggio Emilia.
The names "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are protected by both the Italian Denominazione di origine protetta and the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin.
Made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, the resulting thick syrup is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of several barrels of successively smaller sizes. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color, and has a complex flavor.
It is most often served in drops on top of chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano and mortadella. It is also used sparingly to enhance steaks, eggs or grilled fish, as well as on fresh fruit such as strawberries and pears and gelato.
So what is the balsamic you normally see in the stores?
Very cheap balsamic vinegars are just vinegars that have been colored and flavored with caramel to simulate the sweetness of real balsamic and thinkers like guar gum or corn flour to simulate the thickness. Fine for salad dressings and glazes, they won't have the authentic intensity of flavor.
Ho