Parmigiano Reggiano:  it’s the king of cheeses.  It has ancient origins and its characteristics have not changed over centuries, it has one of cheese’s longest documented histories.  In the 12th Century in Parma and Reggio Emilia Benedictine monks were already known for their production of hard cheeses.  The first written mention of a “formaggio di forma parmigiano” is in 1344 and in that same year Boccaccio describes a mountain made of grated parmigiano in one of his stories.  By the 18th Century there were around thirty dairies producing the cheese, today there are some 350 Parmigiano Reggiano producers.  Parmigiano Reggiano is made under very strict standards using the milk of cows raised under equally strict standards – hence the quality of Parmigiano is very consistent, always aiming for perfection in texture and taste.  The only flexibility allowed is in aging.  To be considered Parmigiano Reggiano it must be aged a minimum of 12 months and labels can have only have the designations of 18, 22 and 30 months.  A comparison tasting of these variously aged chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano (even better if you do it in Parma…) is really like being in heaven – you totally understand why it’s called il re dei formaggi!