Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Cheese Pilgrim and the Buffalo God


Mozzarella is meant to be eaten fresh.

“The best Mozzarella in the world is at Costanzo’s in  Arzano.”  Corrado told me.

“I love Mozzarella.  I’ve even made it myself a few times,” I told him. “Not the real thing of course, from cow’s milk.  They don’t have fresh buffalo mozzarella in America.”

“When it’s made from cow’s milk we call it fiordilatte which means in English flower of the milk.”

The next morning I began the three and a half hour walk to Arzano.  I had three options.  I could wear my neoprene booties, my dilapidated vibrams, or go barefoot.  I decided to wear the vibrams while I was downtown, and once I got away from all the broken glass I would switch to barefoot.

About an hour in, I took the shoes off and felt liberated.  My feet were free; I could feel the ground, and walk the way I was meant too.  Five minutes later I passed a discarded bloody syringe.  I put the shoes back on.  When I thought I was out of the broken glass area, I took them off again.  There was a lot of broken glass, the whole way.  Sometimes I would walk around it, sometimes I would temporarily wear my shoes.

Most of the walk was along traffic filled streets through rundown neighborhoods.  Besides the broken glass, I passed overflowing dumpsters and piles of clothing and junk that was undoubtedly assembled by people who had nowhere better to keep their belongings.

Two hours in I felt a small rock in my shoe.  I took the shoe off, but couldn’t find the rock.  I returned my shoes and kept on walking, but the rock was still in there.  I repeated the process, with no luck.  I walked some more.  A stabbing pain screamed out GLAAAAASS, and I understood that another one of the little suckers had found its way inside my foot.

For the rest of the walk, I stepped carefully, with only the occasional glaring pain.  I wanted to taste the best cheese in the world, and I didn’t have that much farther to go.

I arrived, only Costanzo’s wasn’t where I thought it would be.  It was another hour of wandering before, tired and highly demoralized, I found the place.  A big white and green sign lifted my spirits up, Costanzo’s.  

I entered the small clean shop.  A glass counter crossed the room, and under it were all sorts of buffalo cheeses.  Sorely tempted, I was there for one thing.  The woman behind the counter smiled and said something welcoming in Italian.

“Mozzarella.”  I asked her, rolling my z’s and r’s as if the word were a prayer which, if said properly, was the gateway to happiness.

She pulled a white lump out of a bag behind her then scooped up the liquid the cheese had been soaking in and packaged it all in a plastic bag, then handed it to me.

Three euro.

There was nowhere to sit, so I walked out of Costanzo’s with my prize, and saw a farm at the end of the street.  I headed towards it, the glass in my foot all but forgotten, and found a spot to sit and eat surrounded by green fields.  It was the first time since my walk began that I was out of the sludgy suburbs.

I struggled to open the bag.  Why was it so hard, it was simple plastic bag tied with simple knot.  Arg.  ... At last, free.  I lifted my cheese out of the whey, and looked at the fat white disk that was about the size of my fist.

I bit into it.  The slightly tangy creamy flavor burst in my mouth, the whey dribbled down my chin hair, and I was in heaven.  It was as though, I had taken a bite out of a slice of angel, it was that good.*  The best Mozzarella in the world?  An understatement, the greatest of God’s gifts under the heavens, a start.

One small bite at a time, I savored every every squishy flow of goodness as I praised the glorious buffalo god who created such amazing happiness in this world.

And then it was all gone.

I looked up on my phone how to take public transportation back to the marina.  It was about an hour walk to the bus that could take me to a train.  The way, oddly enough, wound through the farmland.

So I walked down a small dirt track and around a gate. Orchards surrounded me, and the world was beautiful.  And the air, it smelled fresh and like a farm.  I could pick out the distinct odor of bovine which I pleasantly associated with kibbutzim.

I saw the corral.  Those were no cows. They were buffalo.  They weren’t just any buffalo, they were the buffalo who had made my cheese.  They were the buffalo gods.

I paid them homage. I thanked them for their cheese.  When I got close they stuck their heads through the fence and looked at me.  They did not moo, the buffalo burped.  

I had been guided there by a higher hand, and it was glorious.

I floated the rest of the way home, which was a good thing because it would have hurt like hell to walk on the glass in my foot.

The only trouble I had was finding the 162 bus, on account of the sign being upside down.

*I imagine mozzarella angels are something the heavenly equivalent of cows here on earth.

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  1. I need educated here. I thought that Mozzerella was a tough, rubbery brick-shaped substance with little to no flavor????????
    You make it sound like its actually good to eat.

  2. So there are two things that make mozzarella great. The first is that it's real mozzarella and not fiordelatte (from a cow.) The 2nd is that it be fresh. I don't think you can get the real thing in Nashville, but fresh can be arranged. This is the recipe I use. http://www.instructables.com/id/Great-Mozzarella-Cheese/
    Let me know how it comes out!