Rather serendipitously, both my mother’s mezzaluna and my own are shown with parsley. In Italy, we often use the expression come il prezzemolo (like parsley) to describe someone or something that tends to always be present, because parsley is an almost ubiquitous ingredient in savory Italian dishes and it is the base of many sauces.
Prezzemolo is a component of gli odori, our version of the bouquet garni. When I went grocery shopping for my mother, I always had this item on my list and I would get it for free from our neighborhood fruit and vegetable store. The owner prepared it on the fly, choosing from what he had available: a few sprigs of parsley, a carrot and a stalk of celery were a constant presence, while other components varied according to the season. Nowadays, the parsley I use comes from my little herb garden, a flat-leaf variety called gigante d’Italia.
The tagliere (cutting board) on which my mother’s mezzaluna is resting was part of my parents’ first kitchen. Like two other useful items, namely spianatoia e matterello (pastry board and rolling pin) which I’ve written on before, the tagliere could be pulled out (like a drawer) when needed. When we moved into a new apartment, the kitchen was left behind, but the wooden trio moved with us.
In my current kitchen, there are two pull-out taglieri. I can’t imagine doing without them. The top cutting board is the one I use most often and is reserved for fruit and vegetables. The bottom one is reserved for chopping chocolate or nuts and for mixing a dough for which I don’t need a lot of space, like in the case of my biscotti.
There is no such thing as having too many taglieri in the kitchen (cucina), I think. I have three more made of wood and two made of recycled plastic. I use them in various ways: for example, to cut bread, to cut and serve my homemade cheese, and also as photo props.
I am ending with two cut-related Italian expressions (you can hear the pronunciation in this mezzaluna-e-tagliere audio file):
- tagliare la corda means to slip (or sneak) away (literally, to cut the rope)
- tagliare la testa al toro means to settle things once and for all, to deal decisively with a problem (literally, to cut the bull’s head)