If Wilhelm Van Berkel never invented the meat slicer, would we still have prosciutto?
Berkel invented the meat slicer in Holland in 1898, and its design was so revolutionary that it quickly carried across the globe. The invention of the slicer, along with the use of refrigeration for transportation and storage, helped create a new demand for ‘store-bought’ products like deli meats and cheeses. These items were considered luxury items, and in the beginning were only available to those of a higher social class.
Prosciutto crudo di Parma, or Parma ham comes from the Parma region of Italy and is best known for its buttery texture that melts in your mouth. This region is also known for its Parmesan cheese, and the pigs that are raised here are often fed Parmigiano-Reggiano, giving the meat a slightly nutty flavor.
Parma ham served with melon makes a great antipasto. It can be cooked with spring vegetables like asparagus and peas, served in sandwiches and panini or used for stuffing other meats, like veal.
Parma ham is sticky by nature and requires a very sharp knife, or a slicer in order to cut the paper-thin slices. Even if Berkel hadn’t invented the slicer, the world would still have prosciutto, but his invention made slicing faster and more accessible to the masses. For that, I am grateful.
No one knows for sure just how long Italians have been making pasta. There are a hundred different names for every shape, and almost as many ways of producing them. Busiata, an early form of spaghetti, was made by rolling dough around a reed. Knitting needles have been used to pierce a hole through the middle of long pasta, and some Albanian communities in the south still use umbrella spokes.
Today, pasta can be easily produced with an extruder and a die. Bronze dies have been produced in Italy for centuries, and are often preferred over the newer Teflon dies. When dough is pushed through a bronze die, the roughness of the metal creates a porous surface, allowing the pasta to cook evenly and absorb the desired amount of sauce.
When dough is pressed through a Teflon die, it comes out shiny and smooth. While grocery shopping these noodles are easy to spot, as they have a bright yellow hue. The Teflon creates a polished surface, making it harder for the pasta to absorb sauce, and like an Italian man once told me, pasta and sauce should stick together like partners.
If you are looking for bronze dies, look no further than EMILIOMITI. They carry a large selection, from penne and spaghetti to alphabet letters and other shapes. The dies fit the pasta extruders they currently have available, namely the P3, P6, and the Dolly. Since the Dolly is the smallest extruder it doesn’t make the same variety of shapes, but you still get a selection.
Dies are the perfect addition to any pasta machine because they give you the ability to make different kinds of pastas with different sauces, allowing you to change the dishes on your menu (or your home kitchen) to fit what’s in season.
Spaghetti is the most popular form of pasta in the world. In 2010 it accounted for two-thirds of global pasta consumption. Made from durum-wheat flour and water, you might consider spaghetti to be the chameleon of pastas, as it’s constantly reinventing itself. This last reinvention came at the end of the Second World War, when America invented canned spaghetti and thus launched the empire of Chef Boyardee.
I never spent as much time in the kitchen as my mother and grandmother would have liked. I was the sort of kid (and let’s be honest, the kind of adult) that expects dinner to appear, like magic, without stepping foot into the kitchen. When I was faced with the daunting task of hosting a holiday dinner party, Emilio grabbed a Raviolamp from his shelf and pushed it in my direction.
In 1996 Vanity Fair began printing the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of its magazine, revealing the often complex personalities of luminaries worldwide. In an effort to better understand Emilio, I asked him to answer the same questions. His responses are detailed below.
As a kid, broccoli was a central part of my diet. My parents loved broccoli and by default, so did I. We ate it in salads and pastas a couple of times a week. I have never given much thought to broccoli before, or really, to the origin of any vegetable. I show up at the market and it shows up on my plate later that evening.
With the rise of processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, and mega supermarkets, the old saying “from the farm to the table” seems to have been lost on my generation. The push for organic and sustainable farming has shed light on the fact that many of us don’t actually know where our food is coming from.
As fall creeps onto the calendar, our days get shorter, our nights get longer and before we know it, the season of holiday eating is upon us. Autumn is a time of harvest and while some of us in North America may think of pumpkins and apples, people around the world celebrate the harvest as a return to the basics, a return to mother nature. It’s a time for appreciation and celebration.