History of Parma Cuisine
Footnotes to Parmesan Gastronomy
"In the days of Don Filippo of Bourbon"
Among the most "regal" dukes to sit on the throne of Parma was Don Filippo of Bourbon who had married the eldest daughter of Louis XV and introduced French etiquette and manners to the Court of Parma. He was a very ostentatious individual and appreciated all the joys of life and, in particular, those of the table.
The aspects of the "services of the mouth" (as the kitchen was referred to in those days) were organized with great care and proposed for this task was a French gentleman, very expert in the field, named Count de Rochechinard. The Count's closest aide was another French nobleman, insolent but competent, named De la Rivière, who bore the official title "Superintendent of the ducal mouth".
In that period, the head chef was a real expert, Sige, master of "gallant cuisine" at Versailles and Parc de Cerfs and whose importance in gastronomic history is still acknowledged today. He was immediately won over by the fine quality of the ingredients offered in the Parmesan state. In the local kitchens, sous-chefs, sauciers and French and Italian pastry chefs worked with him, while a Piedmont native was responsible for the wine cellar. Mons. De la Rivière and Chef Sige were in agreement that Parmesan cuisine had much to offer and, therefore, its specialties could be utilized alongside the much more elaborate French dishes.
The traditional dish that could be described as the gastronomic masterpiece of the day and gives us an idea of the fruit of the union between French and Italian cuisine is called Medaillon de Parme, for which Sige left a recipe: "Cut a number of thick slices of boiled ham, cut disks approximately 3-4 centimeters in width from the lean parts, soften some butter until it becomes oily, add the leftover bits of ham and some chopped white truffle and season with pepper. Form medallions by filling two disks with a spoonful of the butter, ham and truffle mixture. Shape the medallions into a crown, coat with aspic and in the middle add a small turban of mixed salad with mayonnaise". What do you think?
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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