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Home » Parma cuisine » Frederick II and Spallanzani


History of Parma Cuisine
Footnotes to Parmesan Gastronomy

"Frederick II and Spallanzani"

The basic idea behind the Parmesan concept of gastronomy is superbly expressed in a letter Frederick the Great wrote to the famous scientist, Lazzaro Spallanzani in which he states: "the books by Apicio and Martilau, two authors who write about gastronomic matters, are read and commented upon with more love than those of Pliny and Vallisneri, and thus a new sauce is more highly appreciated than a new discovery." ... And in our opinion, Frederick II has hit the nail on the head. It would be very interesting to know the name, so that proper homage (at least of the stomach) could be rendered, of the first cook who sprinkled some grated parmesan cheese over a dish and put it to bake in the oven, giving birth to those dishes "alla parmigiana" known as "au gratin" in French. 

What is the origin of this synonym for "alla parmigiana"? Not French for sure and more likely tied to the Italian "grana" which, as we all know, is an ancient, typically Parmesan word. As far back as the 1200s, we find old recipes for dishes "al grattino" that must refer to grated grana (cheese), words typically Italian in form. In fact, for "grated", the French use the term "tapée".

From G. Gonizzi, Le memorie del Ciambellano. Storie di cucina nel Ducato. I, in Parma Capitale Alimentare, 43, 2000, pp 45-61.

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