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Steal This Cheese!


Pssst! Wanna buy some parmesan? At larger outdoor markets in Italy, vendors of pinched goods drift between stands, pulling items out of coat or skirt pockets, angling the merchandise at face level of potential customers. They never say anything; large lumps of cheese, face cream and packs of razors speak for themselves.

Turns out parmesan is the most stolen item from Italian supermarkets. One-tenth of this particular kind of cheese stocked in stores drifts past the register unpaid for, according to farmer’s union Coldiretti. Cheese is a more popular steal than high-ticket items like vodka or wine.
It’s the perfect article for a five-finger discount. Parmigiano, as it’s called, costs anywhere from €10-25 per kilo (that’s $12-30) and is one of the ever-present items in all Italian households.
A big, yellow wedge of parmesan starts life as a fresh cheese, not too hard or sharp to slice off big chunks and eat with fruit for a humble second course. Age nubs of it for your cheese grinder to sprinkle over pasta; mine’s a little one stored in the fridge that holds a slice of parmigiano at the ready. When you’re down to the rind, pop that into a risotto or a soup for flavor.
The Coldiretti study registered an increase over last year in stealing from supermarkets. Italians have been feeling the squeeze since the euro sashayed in four years ago. Prices in lire weren’t converted, for “simplicity’s sake” they were just “translated” across the board, resulting in heavy mark-ups. Here’s how it worked: if you paid 6,000 lire for a cheese pizza in 2001, you were often asked to pay six euro for the same pizza a year later. Trouble is, six euro is not 6,000 lire but nearly twice that, about 12,000 lire.
The center-left government is currently trying to squeeze painful budget cuts through a bloated public system, every day’s news is peppered with speculation on how much this will further cut into the pockets of average people. Depending on which news you watch (the non-apologetic partisan approach makes “Outfoxed” look like child’s play), it could be a real disaster.
How much for that cheese?

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 8:54 AM | Permalink

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