Pecorino

For my friends, Marco and Sandra Floriani, Sardinia is like a continent. They live in the foothills of the Alps, near Trento. This was many years ago. I joined them on a ferry from the Italian mainland to Sardinia. What can I say, it is like a continent! We drove the car off the ferry and turned right onto the coast road. This began to rise into the hills. At the beginning, the landscape resembled San Diego, California. As the road climbed, we moved into other habitats. Increasingly, the landscape and plants reminded me of my central California. But, there was situs growing wild! Instead of the California live oak, they were cork oaks. If you haven’t seen a cork oak, it’s very similar to a California live oak. Like the live oak, it is evergreen and has small leaves that those of you familiar with deciduous oaks will not recognize. 

This is a photograph of one of my friends’ friends starting to show me how to make pecorino, a hard, dry, sheep’s milk cheese. Since the 1970s, his family had been heating the milk in a copper pot over a propane stove. But, in my honor, the plan was to demonstrate over live fire. The younger brother, who had arrived to meet me first, tried to light the fire, but he did not know how! He produced smoke, but no fire. As the guest, it was not my place to point out that green wood will not burn. The elder brother, who you see here, eventually arrived, took one look, and took over. I thought it was interesting that the fire-making skill had been so easily lost. It is common, of course, to meet women who don’t know how to light a live fire. Much less common in men, especially those who live in rural and semi-rural communities, which is where these pecorino-makers lived. 

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