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Cheese So Good, You Can Take It to the Bank

An Italian financial institution accepts valuable Parmigiano-Reggiano as collateral from struggling farmers.

Photo by Valerie Hinojosa via Flickr

It’s easy to be impressed by the historical and modern wealth of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Heavy with Renaissance architecture, intellectual heritage, and a rich culinary culture, the district also arguably has one of the highest qualities of life in the country. Soaking in this opulence, it’s easy to think that the barbed wire around the region’s major banks must guard gobs of cash and gold. But at least one major banking chain in the region, Credito Emiliano (Credem), has started using its vaults to store and trade a more delicious form of wealth: cheese.

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Watch Your Mouth: Why Do We Shoplift Meat and Cheese? Meatlifting: The Economics of Shoplifting Meat and Cheese

Meat and cheese tops the charts of shoplifted items. Why do we purloin sirloin and cop Camembert?


This summer, a Pennsylvania man was caught stuffing a pork loin down his pants. Men have also recently slid sirloins into their shorts in South Carolina, Florida, and Australia. Two women rolled off with wheels of gouda from Whole Foods Market in June. An organized gang in Florida drove away with seven tractor-trailers worth of cucumbers, tomatoes, and frozen meat in March. A Texas sting, “Operation Meat Locker,” busted up a ring of modern cattle rustlers who had been shoplifting retail cuts of beef and selling them to local restaurants.

The five-finger discount isn't just showing up on the police beat—it's also reasserted itself more broadly in pop culture. In The New Yorker’s “Money Issue,” Miranda July writes that stealing requires a kind of Zen oneness akin to horse whispering or surfing (she ate through early adulthood by lifting soy products from the supermarket). Shoplifting from American Apparel is practically required reading for Generation Ambivalent. Wendy loses Lucy after unsuccessfully trying to steal dog food. Eater even has a column devoted to “Shit People Steal.”

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Video: The Incredible Science of Cheese-Making

Take a look into the fascinating science of cheese—from MRIs to microbes.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G6yzLSByHQ

Americans eat about 33 lbs of cheese a year, and KQED Quest recently looked into our ever-evolving taste for salty, fermented blocks of milk in a segment on the "Science and Art of Cheese."

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Deep under Springfield, Missouri, lies a cheese cave of industrial proportions, a 2-million-square-foot refrigerated warehouse called Springfield Underground. Since 2008, Kraft Foods has rented 400,000 square feet of the repurposed limestone mine as a massive distribution center, from which to ship 680-pound, Velveeta-bright barrels of Oscar Meyer meats, Philadelphia cream cheese, Velveeta pasteurized processed cheeses, Jell-O, and Lunchables.

Unlike traditional cheese caves, which can impart the particular flavors of time and place—the unique combinations of bacteria, yeast, and mold that cheese makers call terroirWired magazine explains that in the case of Kraft's cave:

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New Jalapeño Bred Specifically to Hold More Cheese

New Mexico's Chile Institute has hybridized a bell pepper and a regular jalapeño in order to create a bigger popper.


Scientists at New Mexico State University's nonprofit Chile Pepper Institute recently announced that they had successfully bred a brand new, medium spicy, extra large jalapeño, specially optimized for "increased cheese payload."

The Institute's Director, Paul Bosland (who, incidentally, is credited by the Guinness Book of Records with the discovery of the world's hottest chile, the Bhut Jolokia, in 2005) explained that the new jalapeño is named NuMex Jalmundo, which is "a contraction of jalapeño and the Spanish word for world (mundo), implying that it is as big as the world."

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