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If it's not Kraft it's not Parmesan


CtznCane
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Thanks for starting this thread CtznCane. Just for the hell of it I'm going to try some Kraft. Despite paying $12-$15 per pound for various Reggiano's, I haven't had anything with a good full flavor since I bought a small (unlabeled) wedge at the local coop at least ten years ago. I'm ready to try Kraft.

On a side note, I like good black pepper and over the years I've tried many different black peppercorns... Tellicherry, India Tellicherry, Sarawack, etc., etc. One weekend I was up at Susie's and had brought a couple different black peppers with me - Susie had McCormick. Before we started cooking (and had had a few beers) we decided to do a pepper tasting. Each pepper was ground out on the cutting board, fingers were wetted, and the peppers tasted. Guess what? The plain old McCormick won. It was better, and with a fuller flavor, than the semi-exotic stuff I'd brought. I've never looked back. It's been McCormick ever since.

I'm ready for some Kraft! :biggrin:

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I don't think the canned stuff is that much cheaper, although I've never bought it myself. I buy wedges of the real stuff from an Italian market, and even by the quarter pound, it lasts me a long time. And it only takes a few seconds longer to grate what I need then to measure out of the can. But I really don't think cost or time savings are what motivate people to buy the green can.

I think most of us fall into the small minority of people to whom it makes sense to say "I can't afford/don't have a source for high quality _____, so I'll go without." Most people don't care as much as we do. Around here, nobody would look at me cross-eyed for spending a whole paycheck on cookware last year, or for shopping for food at four different stores/markets on a regular basis, things for which some of my friends call me crazy. Around here, it's sort of de rigeur to abhor the Olive Garden and shun the ubiquitous green can of Kraft. But it irks me when it gets made into a moral issue. Like if I like Kraft, or the Olive Garden, I'm inferior. That's not the case. Parmigianno Reggiano may very well be objectively better than Kraft (I suspect that may be true), but I'm not an idiot for shaking some over my spaghetti when I'm at my parents house, and enjoying it.

I try hard not to be a "food snob". Threads like this to me represent the best and worst of eG. Best in the sense that I'm happy to be among people who feel the same way I do about making quality food decisions. Worst in the sense that I don't like feeling ashamed for liking the Olive Garden.

Edited by dividend (log)

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

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On a side note, I like good black pepper and over the years I've tried many different black peppercorns... Tellicherry, India Tellicherry, Sarawack, etc., etc. One weekend I was up at Susie's and had brought a couple different black peppers with me - Susie had McCormick. Before we started cooking (and had had a few beers) we decided to do a pepper tasting. Each pepper was ground out on the cutting board, fingers were wetted, and the peppers tasted. Guess what? The plain old McCormick won. It was better, and with a fuller flavor, than the semi-exotic stuff I'd brought. I've never looked back. It's been McCormick ever since.

I'm ready for some Kraft!  :biggrin:

As usual, the product with the BIGGEST flavor wins the blind tasting. Nuance never fares well in such situations.

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I buy wedges of the real stuff

That's the answer isn't it? There's the real stuff and the imposters. Why should the imposters have the right to use the place-name of the real stuff. At some point there needs to be some respect for authentic producers and at the very least they should have their place-names protected and preserved.

Everyone has every right to prefer Kraft Parmesan over Parmigiano Reggiano as their flavors have absolutely nothing to do with each other. However, Kraft should not have the right to steal the name that generations of producers have worked to establish as something special.

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I don't use the "green can" stuff because

1) it's not fresh

2) it has no flavour

3) it is exceedingly expensive

4) its texture is all wrong

We have a huge Italian immigrant population in Venezuela. There are several cheesemakers here who produce acceptable Parmesan cheese. No, it's not the "real" thing, but at least you can buy it fresh, and grate it fresh on to your pasta.

If you prefer the boxed stuff, fine - I'd venture to say you're missing out on flavour. Same goes for the pre-grated stuff. It's a question of choice. You don't like cheese on your pasta? That's ok, too. For the two minutes it takes to remove a small piece of cheese from the fridge and grate it on to your pasta, I think the taste is eminently better.

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On a side note, I like good black pepper and over the years I've tried many different black peppercorns... Tellicherry, India Tellicherry, Sarawack, etc., etc. One weekend I was up at Susie's and had brought a couple different black peppers with me - Susie had McCormick. Before we started cooking (and had had a few beers) we decided to do a pepper tasting. Each pepper was ground out on the cutting board, fingers were wetted, and the peppers tasted. Guess what? The plain old McCormick won. It was better, and with a fuller flavor, than the semi-exotic stuff I'd brought. I've never looked back. It's been McCormick ever since.

I'm ready for some Kraft!   :biggrin:

As usual, the product with the BIGGEST flavor wins the blind tasting. Nuance never fares well in such situations.

Speaking of nuance, there's a difference between fullest and biggest flavors.

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On a side note, I like good black pepper and over the years I've tried many different black peppercorns... Tellicherry, India Tellicherry, Sarawack, etc., etc. One weekend I was up at Susie's and had brought a couple different black peppers with me - Susie had McCormick. Before we started cooking (and had had a few beers) we decided to do a pepper tasting. Each pepper was ground out on the cutting board, fingers were wetted, and the peppers tasted. Guess what? The plain old McCormick won. It was better, and with a fuller flavor, than the semi-exotic stuff I'd brought. I've never looked back. It's been McCormick ever since.

I'm ready for some Kraft!  :biggrin:

As usual, the product with the BIGGEST flavor wins the blind tasting. Nuance never fares well in such situations.

Speaking of nuance, there's a difference between fullest and biggest flavors.

I'm glad you understand. Of course, fuller would not always be better. If you are going to be picky about peppercorns (or cheese) sometimes something more delicate would be appropriate.

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I have tried various other hard cheeses, but find that the fresh Parmagiano I bought a chunck of has less flavor than the Green Can!!!  Therefore, I can honestly say I do still prefer the Green Can at home.  Partly due to the "childhood favorite", but something is probably amiss with my fresh grated cheese.  I suspect I bought an inferior piece.  I've also got some Romano on hand, which is more flavorful, and much better.  Is fresh grated Parmagiano a realtively milder cheese?  I also think my grating may have something to do with it - I use a wheel-crank style, which shaves very fine pieces of cheese off.  Is this desired? 

I have also sliced it, and then the taste is better, but the Parmagiano I bought has crystal chunks in it (I don't know how to describe it - crunchy crystalline bits embedded in the cheese.)  Well, next time I should just find a better source.

The crystals are not a bad thing - on the contrary - they're indicative of a good aged Parmigiano Reggiano.

I find Romano much saltier then Parmigiano, and the stuff in the "green can" is definitely saltier. Could that be one of the reasons you find they have more taste than the Parmigiano? I'm just the opposite - I dislike the saltiness in the Romano, and much prefer the Parmigiano. I won't go near the Kraft stuff.

Edited by merstar (log)
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I have tried various other hard cheeses, but find that the fresh Parmagiano I bought a chunck of has less flavor than the Green Can!!!  Therefore, I can honestly say I do still prefer the Green Can at home.  Partly due to the "childhood favorite", but something is probably amiss with my fresh grated cheese.  I suspect I bought an inferior piece.  I've also got some Romano on hand, which is more flavorful, and much better.  Is fresh grated Parmagiano a realtively milder cheese?  I also think my grating may have something to do with it - I use a wheel-crank style, which shaves very fine pieces of cheese off.  Is this desired? 

I have also sliced it, and then the taste is better, but the Parmagiano I bought has crystal chunks in it (I don't know how to describe it - crunchy crystalline bits embedded in the cheese.)  Well, next time I should just find a better source.

The crystals are not a bad thing - on the contrary - they're indicative of a good aged Parmigiano Reggiano.

I find Romano much saltier then Parmigiano, and the stuff in the "green can" is definitely saltier. Could that be one of the reasons you find they have more taste than the Parmigiano? I'm just the opposite - I dislike the saltiness in the Romano, and much prefer the Parmigiano. I won't go near the Kraft stuff.

What kind of "romano" are you referring to? Pecorino Romano from Italy or commercial American versions? Just like American "parmesan" has little to do with Parmigiano Reggiano, American "romano" has little to do with Italian Pecorino Romano.

I think you are correct in saying the main flavor in Kraft and American "romano" and "parmesan" is salt.

Edited by Craig Camp (log)
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I have tried various other hard cheeses, but find that the fresh Parmagiano I bought a chunck of has less flavor than the Green Can!!!  Therefore, I can honestly say I do still prefer the Green Can at home.  Partly due to the "childhood favorite", but something is probably amiss with my fresh grated cheese.  I suspect I bought an inferior piece.  I've also got some Romano on hand, which is more flavorful, and much better.  Is fresh grated Parmagiano a realtively milder cheese?  I also think my grating may have something to do with it - I use a wheel-crank style, which shaves very fine pieces of cheese off.  Is this desired? 

I have also sliced it, and then the taste is better, but the Parmagiano I bought has crystal chunks in it (I don't know how to describe it - crunchy crystalline bits embedded in the cheese.)  Well, next time I should just find a better source.

The crystals are not a bad thing - on the contrary - they're indicative of a good aged Parmigiano Reggiano.

I find Romano much saltier then Parmigiano, and the stuff in the "green can" is definitely saltier. Could that be one of the reasons you find they have more taste than the Parmigiano? I'm just the opposite - I dislike the saltiness in the Romano, and much prefer the Parmigiano. I won't go near the Kraft stuff.

I love the crystals in a well aged Parigiano Reggiano!

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and the stuff in the "green can" is definitely saltier. Could that be one of the reasons you find they have more taste than the Parmigiano?

This thread has really got me thinking about why I really like Kraft parmesan, and I think merstar hit it on the head. I feel like when I grate the real stuff, that I can't taste it on whatever I'm using it for after the first bite. I'll admit, I use LOTS of the Kraft, whereas I don't seem to use quite as much of the real stuff. When I sample each one alone, the real stuff has much more complex flavors, and is quite tasty, but it seems to get lost in the mix. It seems reasonable that the increased salt amount (or increased salt "flavor"!) makes the Kraft stand up better to robust sauces, along with the increased amount due to ease. I will try to slow down and taste for the real stuff in my dishes, as I do like the increased range of flavors. But I will still continue to use Kraft because, hey, I like it!

To really scare those of you who avoid processed foods, although I often make my own pasta, stuffed or otherwise (and clearly prefer it), I will open a can of Chef Boyardee, nuke it, and cover it with Kraft. Mmmmmm.....

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Well, I learned something about cheese today! I had no idea that the crystals were supposed to be there. It will take some getting used to. That parmagiano was delicious in chunks but the crystals were strange. Out of curiousity, what causes them? Is it proteins or other biologicals that actually crystallize over time as the cheese looses moisture? (I assume that's what make a chees hard - moisture loss. Correct me if wrong.)

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After all, a liberal application of $8.99/lb Parmigiano-Reggiano will cost about twice as much as an equally liberal application of $5.99/lb American industrial grade Parmesan-style cheese.

I can't remember the last time I saw imported P-R for only $8.99 a pound. Is this really what you pay at DiBruno's or Reading? Here in D.C. $14 is a good price and it's recently climbed again.

Actually, now that you mention it, I think that $8.99/lb is what DiBruno's charges for its domestic house Parmesan, which comes from Wisconsin (Aurichio, I think).

$12.99 is what I think they charge for a pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I'll double-check that against the small container of ready-grated P-R I have in the fridge right now.

I may also be a little low with my $5.99/lb figure for the industrial-grade cheese in the cans.

Now that Grana Padano is more readily available, I do what Italians do and save a little money by using this as an ordinary grating cheese, reserving P-R for dishes where I think it would make a difference.  It's also made from cow's milk.  Whether Locatelli (not the brand of pre-grated cheese menton1 finds in the NE, but an Italian cheese) or a less costly Pecorino Romano, cheeses produced from sheep's milk are not less expensive substitutes for P-R since the taste is different.

Thanks for tipping me off to Grana Padano. I generally use both Parmesan and Romano on pasta with sauce.

This thread reminds me of one I started on nutrition.  It's insulting to tell someone that the thing she eats might be replaced by something superior.  It's a personal slight.  It can also be interpreted as a class thing.

I find the comment made about comfort food the most salient.  If you were raised on Kraft grated cheese and you look back to those meals with longing and affection, then you may very well like the stuff as a grown-up even though you like P-R (too many different associations for Rachael Ray to adopt?) too.  This I can understand.  You might even find Kraft more flavorful because it's sharper, saltier or stronger in taste--and what you are more accustomed to sprinkling on Italian-American food. 

Though I've made enough snide comments in my time about people who go to mediocre places when there's better stuff available nearby--especially when there's better stuff available that costs no more--count me in with you as disapproving of of the morally superior tone that creeps into such comments at times. We're talking about taste, fer Chrissakes, and as the Romans put it centuries ago, de gustibus non disputandum est.

What I find more puzzling are the people who buy Parmigiano-Reggiano grated just because they grew up with Kraft and don't think about grating their own cheese.  Then again, I ground coffee beans in the store for years before I bought my own grinder and I can't remember the last time I baked bread even though it's perfectly easy to do.

I also wonder about Stella or other domestic US brands from Wisconsin that were developed back when Parmigiano-Reggiano was not widely available in the United States.  I suspect the brands survive because people grew up with them and don't know any better. :wink:  Cost may be another factor, but it still amazes me that the "gourmet cheese" bin at my local Safeway supermarkets just has the domestic wedges, sold as a classier product than the bars of storebrand Cheddar over in a different section of the store.  Another big-chain supermarket in this area, Giant sells real P-R in addition to the stuff from Wisconsin, but at a price much higher than Whole Foods.

I don't like the results I get with my fine cheese grater (one of those four-sided jobbies with holes pierced through the surface on the fine-grating side) and want to get another.

As for people complaining about American cheese producers calling their product "Parmesan," I suspect that this is like the bottlers of water from Saratoga Springs calling their product "Vichy water" back in the 19th century, with the only difference being that the cheese is made according to the same methods used in Reggiano. Which, come to think of it, would really be more like those sparkling wines that have the phrase "méthode champenoise" on their labels. But since there is no "generic" term for this style of cheese, the term "Parmesan" itself must serve as the generic, just as "Cheddar" describes a style of cheese that is made in thousands of locations worldwide.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

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The first time I made Mr. Kim spaghetti, he asked for Parm. cheese.  I said I had forgotten to buy cheese.  He said, "don't you keep a can in the fridge all the time?"  I said, "Oh, you mean Kraft?  I have something that tastes the same as it."  I went to the kitchen and got a grater and a cardboard cereal box and grated it directly over his spaghetti.  He thanked me.  Ate ALL of his meal and never, ever requested Kraft parm. again.  :laugh:

This made my day.:laugh::laugh:

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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and the stuff in the "green can" is definitely saltier. Could that be one of the reasons you find they have more taste than the Parmigiano?

This thread has really got me thinking about why I really like Kraft parmesan...

Real Parmigiano Reggiano has to be aged for at least a year.It is made in Parma, and prepared in the winter months. That probably affects the fat content of the milk - although I'm not an expert on that.

I'd be surprised if Kraft parmesan is aged for a whole year. Maybe, maybe not, but I'd have thought it would become commercially unviable to keep cheese in a Warehouse for a year.

As for grating it - once cheese is grated, it begins to dry out. As it dries out, it loses flavour. There are chemical "flavour enhancers" available to maintain the "!100% Full Flavor!" but there's nothing like the real thing. Salt, MSG are two good examples.

That doesn't mean you cannot like Kraft parm because it's not original. You can like what ever you want! Until I was 15, and was served fresh pasta on a camping holiday, I thought spaghetti came out of a tin and was served on toast!

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When I came here to be with my SO, I found he had Kraft in the house. That was ten years ago and there hasn't been any since.

I am amazed at the price difference in real Parm. I was in the Bay Area a few days ago and found it was $10.99 per lb. Our local stores have it for $16.99 and $17.99. What a difference a few miles makes!

Needless to say, I stocked up.

Edited by BarbaraY (log)
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I have tried various other hard cheeses, but find that the fresh Parmagiano I bought a chunck of has less flavor than the Green Can!!!  Therefore, I can honestly say I do still prefer the Green Can at home.  Partly due to the "childhood favorite", but something is probably amiss with my fresh grated cheese.  I suspect I bought an inferior piece.  I've also got some Romano on hand, which is more flavorful, and much better.  Is fresh grated Parmagiano a realtively milder cheese?  I also think my grating may have something to do with it - I use a wheel-crank style, which shaves very fine pieces of cheese off.  Is this desired? 

I have also sliced it, and then the taste is better, but the Parmagiano I bought has crystal chunks in it (I don't know how to describe it - crunchy crystalline bits embedded in the cheese.)  Well, next time I should just find a better source.

The crystals are not a bad thing - on the contrary - they're indicative of a good aged Parmigiano Reggiano.

I find Romano much saltier then Parmigiano, and the stuff in the "green can" is definitely saltier. Could that be one of the reasons you find they have more taste than the Parmigiano? I'm just the opposite - I dislike the saltiness in the Romano, and much prefer the Parmigiano. I won't go near the Kraft stuff.

What kind of "romano" are you referring to? Pecorino Romano from Italy or commercial American versions? Just like American "parmesan" has little to do with Parmigiano Reggiano, American "romano" has little to do with Italian Pecorino Romano.

I think you are correct in saying the main flavor in Kraft and American "romano" and "parmesan" is salt.

Interesting, in that the P-R you so dearly love is salted, as are most cheeses to varying degrees. In fact, it is the only additive allowed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmigiano

Skim milk, salt, enzyme and a culture. Same recipe as Kraft, but Kraft only ages "at least six months" whereas P-R is aged a year. I am sure there are differences in the cattle feed, recipe proportions, and cultures used as well. Please note that it is proper and expected that any cheese using the same method and recipe, produced anywhere in the world, is properly referred to as "Parmesan" and there is no problem with that and it is in common use.

Have you actually ever tried the Kraft? Blind taste test, maybe? Could be fun.

Take what you like and leave the rest.

ETA Because I can't spell.

Edited by annecros (log)
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Interesting, in that the P-R you so dearly love is salted, as are most cheeses to varying degrees. In fact, it is the only additive allowed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmigiano

Skim milk, salt, enzyme and a culture. Same recipe as Kraft, but Kraft only ages "at least six months" whereas P-R is aged a year. I am sure there are differences in the cattle feed, recipe proportions, and cultures used as well. Please note that it is proper and expected that any cheese using the same method and recipe, produced anywhere in the world, is properly referred to as "Parmesan" and there is no problem with that and it is in common use.

Have you actually ever tried the Kraft? Blind taste test, maybe? Could be fun.

Take what you like and leave the rest.

ETA Because I can't spell.

Like everybody else I grew up with Kraft. Obviously they use salt in the production of Parmginano Reggiano, but unlike Kraft, it is not the dominate flavor.

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You know, I almost always refer to the cheese as Parmesan, not "Parmigiano", let alone "Parmigiano-Reggiano".  Insisting on the Italian-- at least, when you're speaking in English-- just smacks of trying too hard, like calling the city "Firenze" instead of "Florence."

The reason people use the name Parmignano Reggiano is because that is the real name of a particular cheese from a particular area made in a controlled way. This is its NAME not an affectation. Parmesan is also a name, but refers to copies of that cheese. These copies are prohibited from using the name Parmigiano Reggiano for very obvious reasons. Because Parmignano Reggiano has been copied so often, it has become more important than ever to use the correct name so people understand what you are talking about.

I don't think anyone would argue (not me anyway) that it's not fine for anyone to use as much Kraft Parmesan as they want. Pile it on if you love it! It's also fine to prefer it to Parmigniano Reggiano. What is not fine is to think that Kraft Parmesan is an alternative to Parmigiano. It is a totally different product with a totally different flavor. The only thing they have in common is that that both names came from the town of Parma.

Edited by Craig Camp (log)
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Kraft has the nerve to actually use the bastardized Anglicized version of a real food product with a controlled place name, Parmesan (Parmigiano).

Actually, according to Jeffrey Steingarten (and I tend to believe him where etymology is concerned), "parmesan" is a gallic bastardization - the French word for Parmigiano, which was then picked up by the English-speaking world.

Ah, and Merriam-Webster confirms it.

Sorry for the word-nerd detour. :wink:

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Kraft has the nerve to actually use the bastardized Anglicized version of a real food product with a controlled place name, Parmesan (Parmigiano).

Actually, according to Jeffrey Steingarten (and I tend to believe him where etymology is concerned), "parmesan" is a gallic bastardization - the French word for Parmigiano, which was then picked up by the English-speaking world.

Ah, and Merriam-Webster confirms it.

Sorry for the word-nerd detour. :wink:

Thanks, that's good to know!

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You know, I almost always refer to the cheese as Parmesan, not "Parmigiano", let alone "Parmigiano-Reggiano".  Insisting on the Italian-- at least, when you're speaking in English-- just smacks of trying too hard, like calling the city "Firenze" instead of "Florence."

This may not make sense but I graviatated towards the following usage:

'parmesan' if referring to parmigiano-style cheese or cheese product produced in the US

'parmigiano' for Italian-made parmigiano

and

'Parmigiano Reggiano" for that actual cheese

If I was referring to something like Kraft parmesan cheese I would probably say "Kraft cheese" or "Kraft parmesan cheese". I grew up with this but don't have a use for it anymore.

I don't view it as an affectation in this case, just descriptive nomenclature.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

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Kraft has the nerve to actually use the bastardized Anglicized version of a real food product with a controlled place name, Parmesan (Parmigiano).

Actually, according to Jeffrey Steingarten (and I tend to believe him where etymology is concerned), "parmesan" is a gallic bastardization - the French word for Parmigiano, which was then picked up by the English-speaking world.

Ah, and Merriam-Webster confirms it.

Sorry for the word-nerd detour. :wink:

Same old, same old.

Whether or not you agree there was a Renaissance, most of us think of the era in terms of Italy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In love with the idea that the glory of antiquity had been reborn, a Frenchman came up with the name of the time period as recently as the 1800s.

See the link used for my signature line as yet another example of arrogant French hegemony. :wink:

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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