Those of you who are offended by sexual imagery, do not continue reading this post! Now that I’ve warned you, I’ll start by saying that when I first got here, I was slightly taken aback by the sexual way in which some foods were presented or labelled. My regular readers may remember the story of the little cakes called Le Minne di Virgini (virgin’s breasts).
One gets used to this type of thing and I hardly even notice anymore, but even I stopped to stare when we passed the cheese counter in the market yesterday. There were huge ‘breasts’ of mozzarella displayed in groups of two. They are always there but not quite as large as the ones I saw yesterday and not surrounded with raddicchio leaves so that they stood out (forgive the pun!). The vendor was very happy with his presentation smiling happily at people like me who stopped to look. They are actually referred to as ‘zizzone’ which means tits in southern dialect.
Shops that specialize in cured meats such as salami and prosciutto are called ‘Norcineria’ after the town Norcia in Umbria which specializes in cured meats. Every Norcineria has a type of salami called ‘Palle di Nono’ (Grandpa’s balls) which you can see at the top in the picture on the right. Another type of salami, (see top section of picture above) is called ‘Coglione di Mulo’ or mules testicles. I can’t think of another country which uses such vivid imagery to describe food. A couple of years ago, a Tesco supermarket in London had a display of Italian cured meats and proudly displayed the Italian names. Some of the buyers who could read Italian were offended and complained. I can imagine similar outrage and embarrasment in Canada. Here in Italy, its quite normal to go into a Norcineria and ask for a few slices of Grandpa’s balls. I have to admit that I don’t think I would feel quite the same if I had to ask for this type of salami in English. And no, I haven’t tried Palle di Nono or Coglione di Mulo yet!