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Funny stuff, Parmesan. My favourite delicatessen sells the most wonderful range of cheeses, and most of them are superb. The proprietor buys real Reggiano Parmigiano, but for some reason itís often a bit moist and a bit short of flavour. The only reason I can suggest is that his (or his Italian supplierís) turnover is so high that the cheese doesnít have time to lie around and mature.

I canít imagine life without Parmesan. It does so much for the pasta dishes that are so central a part of my diet, but I find Iím increasingly sprinkling it on salads - peppers and tomatoes especially - now.

A few months ago I bought a rather jagged vacuum-packed chunk in Sainsburyís (from whom I wouldnít usually dream of buying cheese, except perhaps French Feta - cheaper than Greek and okay - and Halloumi). When I released it from its plastic it was sweaty and horrible but smelled good. After leaving it to dry a bit, I tried it. It was excellent. Thatís what I use now.

Until recently, Iíve grated my Parmesan for sprinkling on those things which benefit from a sprinkling of this amazing cheese, but now I use my faithful swivel potato-peeler to take off large, delicate flakes - as served on my amazing Carpaccio in a restaurant run by Egyptians in Milan! I leave these to dry out a bit in a dish and then crumble them in my fingers. Miles better.

For the record, you donít use those tubs of ready-grated Parmesan - do you?

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.

This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.