IT’S ALL IN THE NAME
Even the Italian word for cheese, formaggio, finds its roots in the Middle Ages: linguists underline it became common in the 13th century and that it originated from the Old French “fromage,” itself loaned from the late Latin term “formaticum,” which means “put into shape.” In those times, every household in the countryside produced cheese: sheep, goats and cows were invaluable patrimony for farmers, who would very rarely kill them for meat, preferring to take advantage of their virtually endless milk production. Truth is that, however, milk was barely consumed as such, and was almost entirely used to make cheese, which was a nutritious, cheap and easily available source of proteins.
IN COME THE MONKS!
SOME LAST CURIOSITY ABOUT MEDIEVAL CHEESE
- Its is in the Middle Ages that the Italian habit of eating cheese at the end of a meal developed: apparently, it was suggested by doctors of the time to do so.
- According to food historians, more than 20 types of cheese we still consume regularly today were created in the Middle Ages. Along with grana and gorgonzola, we should mention also Friuli’s Montasio: even if it acquired its name only in the late 18th century, its production had begun in the Abbey of Moggio Udinese, sometimes in the 1200s.
- Mozzarella was known already by the Greeks inhabiting the South of Italy in the 6th and 5th century BC, but got its name in the Middle Ages, when people started to associate the cheese with the act of “mozzare” (to cut), necessary to make single mozzarellas from larger curd pieces.
- More about mozzarella, which was produced also in the Abbey of San Lorenzo in Capua, in the Campania province of Caserta. According to a 12th century document, the monks offered it to all pilgrims passing by.
- The patron saint of cheese makers is Saint Lucius: he lived in the 13th century, when he would make cheese to feed the poor off the milk of his landlord’s estate. He was killed for it.
If you would like to read the original article which inspired this piece, look for the well documented research by Daniele Venturoli, published on the Spring Edition of Focus Storia Collection.