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Il formaggio con le pere

There’s an old Italian proverb that says:

Al contadino non far sapere quanto è buono il formaggio con le pere.

Let’s break down its meaning: in Italian the noun contadino means farmer; the verb sapere is to know; the adjective buono means good, and formaggio and pere are respectively cheese and pears.

The pronunciation has a musical quality because sapere and pere rhyme.

Loosely translated, the proverb can be understood in this way: don’t let the farmer know how delicious cheese and pears are together. The expression is typically used when we have information we don’t want to reveal.  

Where does it come from? The proverb dates back to the Middle Ages when there was a distinction between social classes. Each social class had certain types of food it was more known to eat than others. Non-perishable food items such as root vegetables and grains, as well as cheeses, were usually consumed by the common people. Fresh food, particularly fruits, were reserved for the noble class. In particular, certain types of pear were considered very precious and delicate, and were often used as gifts among the rich. Fruits that grew on tall trees were often used as symbols to represent the aristocracy. For centuries fruit trees were grown only in the lands owned by aristocrats.

But what is the real message? Typically, ancient proverbs originate from the wisdom of the working class. However, that is not the case with this expression. Why?  Between the XIV and XV centuries, some cheeses started to be consumed by the noble class. They quickly learned that eating cheese with pears was a delicious way to end a meal. For this reason, the proverb was born: the noble class wanted to prevent the commoners from trying to add fruits to their diet, thus dissolving the division between social classes.

These days, combining pears with cheese is no longer a secret and everyone can enjoy this tasty treat. Check out the link below to see a quick and easy recipe that you can try at home.

Pere con speck e gorgonzola

Article written by Valentina Andreucci in collaboration with the ICC Editorial Team

(Photo: Floris Claesz van Dijck, Natura morta con formaggi, 1615 circa, Amsterdam , Rijksmuseum)

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