As I was walking home tonight through the streets of Bra, I saw a man closing the door of a transport truck and I noticed it was filled with Styrofoam boxes like the ones used to transport mozzarella. I stopped and asked him if by chance he was selling cheese. He responded that indeed he was! I asked him what he had and he showed me a great selection of burrata and bocconcini. I selected a bag of bocconcini and, as I hand over my 6 euros, I asked the vendor where he got his cheese. He told me that each Thursday he drove up from Caserta, in the province of Campania (not far from Naples), to sell fresh mozzarella di bufala and other products from the south of Italy. This is a good thing and I love that you can find such amazing things just walking down the street here in Piedmont.
I got home and barely took off my coat before tearing into the bag of bufala. Was this the real thing? Good mozzarella di bufala is almost impossible to find outside of southern Italy and it generally doesn’t travel well. It must be kept at a cool temperature but not too cold because that is when it becomes a rubbery ball you could play tennis with (much like most mozzarella you find in North America). I could not wait: I popped a little bocconicino into my mouth and bit down on the spongy cheese that oozed its lovely milkiness immediately. This is one of the best tactile, taste sensations in the world. Eureka! This was the real thing and damn was it good.
Someone once told me the story of bufala. This is a popular milk producing animal in southern Italy because it is extremely faithful to the person who regularly milks it. Apparently, if a stranger tries to milk a bufala, it gets quite violent. This is considered a real positive in southern Italy, where all types of theft are a major issue.
While I was on Vancouver Island this summer, I heard that there is a farm that is raising water buffalo (see photo above) and producing mozzarella. I haven’t tried their cheese but this is a very interesting development. Please let me know if anyone reading this blog has had the pleasure.