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April 25, 2024 34 mins

From the Parmesan Mafia to the gas station hot dog Will accidentally ate, there are way too many cheese crimes out there! This episode Will and Mango investigate a fondue cartel, ride with food detectives, and look into an Ocean's 11... of cheese?!  

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
You're listening to Part Time Genius, the production of Kaleidoscope
and iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Guess what mango was that? Well, today we're doing a
show on cheese crimes. I've been excited for this one,
So I've got a question for you to kick things off.
So what's the first thing that comes to mind when
I say cheese crime? Because there's so many things that
could come to mind. What comes to mind for you?

Speaker 1 (00:27):
I know there's gonna be a pop quiz, Yeah, someone
committing a crime with cheese, like maybe blusheoning someone with
like a huge wheel of parmesan and then eating that parmesan.

Speaker 2 (00:38):
So there's a murder weapon. Oh, that would be like
the perfect crime.

Speaker 1 (00:41):
Yeah, or maybe just using cheese whiz in a sandwich,
which is kind of a cheese crime.

Speaker 2 (00:46):
I feel like, out, I look the way you just
quickly planned to murder around a wheel of cheese and
then you dissed the giant part of Philadelphia culture. This
is all in the first minute of the show. But
the thing is, cheese is reportedly the most shoplift did
food in the world. Plus it's the target of all
sorts of craziness from stealing and grifting to tist and
even smuggling.

Speaker 1 (01:07):
So this whole episode is kind of just a bad
setup for a nacho cheese jokes.

Speaker 2 (01:12):
That's the whole reason. That's why I'm excited for this.
All right, let's dive in. Welcome back to Part Time Genius.

(01:38):
I'm Will and as always, I'm here with my good
friend Mango, and somewhere behind that big booth is our
pal Dylan, who has a giant can of easy cheese
and a plate full of crackers that actually Mango, I
think he's preparing for us. The guy's just so generous.

Speaker 1 (01:52):
I love that he made us a snack. I guess
he didn't want us to be angry. But speaking of
cheese crimes, I know this is a little off topic,
but can you retell that story about that time you
stopped at a gas station and was.

Speaker 2 (02:05):
So I didn't think we were going to go there,
but yeah, so I was in a hurry to a
meeting one day, and for whatever reason, it had been
an ongoing joke about grabbing a hot dog from a
gas station with a group of friends. I truly was
in a rush, was filling up with gas and I
was like, you know what, I'm going to do it.
I'm going to get a gas station hot dog because
I was angry, and so I grabbed one. I go

(02:28):
out to the car, finished, you know, filling up the tank.
I take a bite of This is going to sound
like terrible. I took a bite of the hot dog
and suddenly I feel something like hot, like squirt the
back of my throat, which I hate to even say
those words. And I looked and the hot dog had
been cheese injected. And I had heard of these before,

(02:52):
and I know that they exist. I have no interest
in them, but I also just I want to heads
up when my hot dog is going to have cheese
in it, and I didn't know, and so, needless to say,
I did not finish the hot dog. It is the
last time I've had a gas station hot dog. So yeah,
that's the story.

Speaker 1 (03:07):
It's a good warning to all our listeners to check
out the label on the hot you always find out
whether it's cheese injected. Yeah, so let's get started. I
know the reason we chose this episode is that we
both heard that shoplifting fact about cheese, like that's the
most shoplifted food. And I'd also heard about this parmesan mafia.
So I was curious what the real story was there.

(03:28):
But why don't we start with just a quick list
of how expensive cheese can be. So here's a quick
top three of expensive cheeses I found on a site
called Chef's Pencil. So number one is Pool, which is
a donkey cheese. Talked about this before, but just to
get a sense of how expensive it is. For comparison,
grocery store cheddars can go for about six dollars a pound,

(03:49):
Mozzarella might go for like eight dollars a pound, but
pool goes for six hundred dollars.

Speaker 2 (03:54):
Oh my god.

Speaker 1 (03:56):
And the reason is it's mostly made of donkey milk. Right,
It's sixty percent donkey milk forty percent goat milk. So
donkeys are doing the heavy lifting there. And apparently, unlike goats,
donkeys are stingy milk givers, like you have to milk
them three times a day. They only give milk six
months of the year, so production is really tricky. Plus
there's only one farm that makes pool, and it's in

(04:19):
the donkey reserve in Serbia, right right, you know, for
whatever reason, I have not seen this six hundred dollars
pound cheese in the Pickley Wiggly in Alabama.

Speaker 2 (04:27):
But my question is is it any good?

Speaker 1 (04:29):
Yeah? I mean I love that you're asking me, like
I have like caviar and pool breath this morning. But
so if you do a quick internet search, it's supposedly
nutty and earthy, and it tastes like manchigo. It doesn't
sound like that special. But I actually read this review
from this cheese blogger, Missed cheesemonger, who's a cheese connoisseur

(04:50):
from San Francisco, and it immediately made me want to
try some.

Speaker 2 (04:53):
So this is what she says.

Speaker 1 (04:55):
Quote. Once I took a bite, I understood what made
this cheese special. There were so many layers a flavor,
from demi cell butter at the foundation to the middle
flavors of sweet grasses to the extremely heady floral notes
that lingered in a ridiculously long finish. This was no
ordinary fresh cheese. It was aromatic to the extreme. I
might as well have been inhaling the scent of milk

(05:17):
on a Serbian hillside. Texture Wise, it is not so unusual. Oh,
but that lingering, longing aftertaste, it was like nothing I
had ever tasted.

Speaker 2 (05:26):
I actually just ordered some on Amazon while you were
talking about it. It sounded so appealing.

Speaker 1 (05:30):
So she points out there are only about one hundred
jennies or female donkeys that can produce the milk for
the special cheese, and the fresh cheese is often best
eaten the day it's made, which I'm sure also drives
up that price.

Speaker 2 (05:41):
And actually that's the cheese that Djokovic was supposedly trying
to corner the market on, right.

Speaker 1 (05:45):
Yeah, And you know, I heard so much about that.
It was basically this drummed up story that the producers
at the farm and a poorly sourced Daily Mail article
made up. But Djokovic apparently has no interest in a
monopoly on donkey cheeses.

Speaker 2 (05:58):
Okay, mainly tennis ye okay, got it's all right? So
that's number one. What's number two on your list? Moose cheese, okay.

Speaker 1 (06:04):
Which feels like it could use better branding than just
moose cheese. But it goes for five hundred dollars a pound,
and again it's.

Speaker 2 (06:10):
The steel compared with some donkey cheese.

Speaker 1 (06:13):
Pretty laborious because you're trying to milk a twelve hundred
pound moose here It's made from a place called the
Elkhouse in Sweden, and according to Chef's pencil, all the
moose cheese comes from three moose named Goulan, Juna, and Helga. Okay,
Helga's cheese is my favorite, obviously.

Speaker 2 (06:31):
Yeah, of course, of course, wow that is that's fascinating.
I do want to try both of those. And I
feel like all these cheeses are expensive because they're not
goat or cow cheeses. So I'm I'm predicting number three
is going to be elephant cheese.

Speaker 1 (06:43):
Am I right? Well, no elephant cheese on my list.
But I do feel like the next few cheeses that
are listed across the internet as the most expensive cheeses
are kind of frauds. Like there's Stilt and Gold, which
is flecked with this edible gold leaf, which I don't
feel like it should count because it's almost like like saying, like,
I mean you the world's most expensive burger, and I

(07:03):
put truffles under a big matt something right, Like, it's
not really expensive on its own. But I'm going to
say Number three is Wyke Farm Cheddar. It's supposedly this
incredibly tasty cheddar. It sells for two hundred dollars a pound,
and the family that makes it has kept the recipe
of secret since eighteen sixty one.

Speaker 2 (07:21):
Okay, all right, So at two hundred dollars a pound,
if you're stealing one of these giant wheels of cheddar,
you could make a lot of money off of that.
But doesn't it feel like stealing one of these super
expensive cheeses is almost like stealing a Picasso off the
wall of a museum, like it's worth a lot more.
But also someone is going to be looking for you.

Speaker 1 (07:39):
Yeah, and there's some cheese detectives out there who specialize
in cheese thefts, which is pretty amazing.

Speaker 2 (07:44):
I love that as a job. All right, I do
want to hear about that, But before we do, let's
talk about cheese's origins. So just a quick primer on this.
While we don't know the first instance of humans making cheese,
we do know that cheesemaking is related to the domestication
of milk producer animals, no surprise there, now that goes
back about eight to ten thousand years ago. You can

(08:05):
also find cheesemaking in Greek mythology, which is pretty interesting
to see. And there's evidence of cheese and cheesemaking that's
been found on Egyptian two murals. These date back probably
four thousands incredible. Yeah, it's a long time ago. But
the truth is cheese was probably discovered accidentally.

Speaker 1 (08:22):
So I actually remember that bit because we did a
show about craft singles and we talked about how cheese, penicillin,
and the slinky were like the greatest accidental distoper.

Speaker 2 (08:32):
Series easy easy, top three, all equally important. But there
are a few different theories of how we got cheese.
It could have been the practice of storing milk and
containers made from stomachs of animals. We've talked about that
a little bit which naturally contained this enzyme called rennet,
and that would cause the milk to coagulate. It separates
into curds and whey. Now, another possibility is the practice

(08:55):
of salting curdled milk for preservation, or the addition of
fruit juices to milk, which would result in the curdling
of the milk.

Speaker 1 (09:02):
It's kind of like how my kids accidentally make cheese
when they leave a carton of milk in the back
of the fridge. Cheese long, but I can't imagine eating that.

Speaker 2 (09:10):
Now, It's not the type of thing Dylan I think
would serve on a ritz cracker. I don't seed on
the plate back there, but if you dump some salt
on that glop, you basically have early cheese. The Roman
Empire produced and traded hundreds of varieties of cheese, so
it was certainly an industry back then, and trade with
Europe could explain how the cheese got to Asia. But

(09:31):
there could have been parallel thinking at work here too,
the Tibetans, the Mongolians, They've also got this long history
of producing cheeses. And of course cheese has been produced
in America since the early seventeenth century, when the English
Puritans brought their knowledge of dairy farming and cheesemaking from
the Old World over to the colonies.

Speaker 1 (09:50):
Right and now Americans are so obsessed with cheese that
we feel comfortable wearing like giant cheese hats on our
heads to sports games.

Speaker 2 (09:57):
I love those cheeseheats. I've always though about getting one.
I never have. But interestingly, Wisconsin didn't start out in
the cheese business really. This date was actually a leading
wheat supplier before the Civil War, but as crop eels
started to fail, Wisconsin farmers knew they needed to pivot
to something, and they pivoted to dairy. Now. At the
same time, settlers from New England and Ohio and New

(10:20):
York and other places in that region they started moving west,
as did the Europeans. So all of these folks start
bringing this interest in cheese and knowledge of cheese production
to the area. So the result is today that Wisconsin
produces more than a quarter of all domestic cheese in
the US.

Speaker 1 (10:37):
I had no idea about that.

Speaker 2 (10:38):
Yeah, cheese is of course a huge business, part of
why we're talking about it here. But the US cheese
retail market is growing and it's slated to reach twenty
seven point eight billion dollars by twenty twenty eight.

Speaker 1 (10:50):
Wow.

Speaker 2 (10:51):
The retail cheese sales in the UK are expected to
reach five point two billion euros by twenty twenty eight.

Speaker 1 (10:57):
So obviously a huge amounts of money and it makes
on That's why cheese crime is a thing.

Speaker 2 (11:02):
Yeah, and as far as commodities that are worth stealing,
cheese is ripe. But yeah, you like what I did there,
But think about it compared to the other dairy products.
It's durable and it's easy to transport. It doesn't melt
like ice cream or spill or leak or spoil as
fast as milk, and it's ubiquitous like it's in cuisines
around the world. People everywhere love cheese, which makes it

(11:24):
easier to sell. Plus, unlike guns or drugs, cheese is
mostly legal, which is a good segue into some cheese jackings.
This was a big thing in Italy back in two
thousand and six. Apparently gangs would lie in wait at
service stations on the Milan Bologna Motorway and as soon
as a truck driver would stop for coffee, they'd ambush them.

Speaker 1 (11:46):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (11:46):
It kind of makes driving a cheese truck seem pretty dangerous.

Speaker 1 (11:49):
Yeah. And in one instance, a driver was threatened by
four armed men and then tied up while his van
carrying three hundred wheels of cheese was driven away. The
cheese wheels were then taken to this industrial estate. They
were cut up and sold in stores. And this happened
for quite a while with different bands of criminals. In
twenty fifteen, a group of criminals were arrested in Moderna

(12:10):
for stealing roughly nine hundred thousand dollars worth of parmesan cheese. Yeah,
and according to the Italian news site Al Sol twenty four,
the criminals were so savvy that they stole over twenty
thirty nine wheels of parmesan reggiano cheese over the course
of roughly two years.

Speaker 2 (12:27):
It feels so weird that there's basically this like Ocean's
eleven of cheese. I don't know, there's something fascinating about it,
but in general, it must be so hard to catch
a cheese thief because it's not like you can track
these like using GPS or anything like that.

Speaker 1 (12:41):
Yeah, So producers and the Italian farmers union, which is
called Colderetti, are experimenting with microchips and they're hidden in
the crusts of the cheese, which means they are actually
more identifiable. They also have marktings burn't on the crust
so that you can help police track the stolen cheese.
But it's still a huge problem. A survey by Coldoretti

(13:01):
found that parmesan is the most shoplifted item in Italy.

Speaker 2 (13:04):
Oh wow, it's a little different than here where it's
mostly like I would guess, batteries and deodorant or something
like that.

Speaker 1 (13:09):
Yeah, but you know, we might need that deodorant because
we're also hard at work stealing cheese. It's not just Italy.
In twenty sixteen, seventy thousand pounds of cheese were stolen
from a cheese store in Germantown, Wisconsin and later recovered
in Milwaukee. Apparently the thieves i'mdoing was trying to sell
the cheese on the cheap, like they tried to hawk

(13:31):
their contraband cheese for just a dollar a pound. And
as you well know, no self respecting Wisconsin retailer would
expect to pay so total, and nor would they buy
the cheese without knowing its prominence. But you know, these
thefts they make the Wisconsin cheese community really really upset.
There's this guy, Tyson Wormheister, the co owner of Mars

(13:53):
Cheese Castle, and he said, a cheese like that not
available for use. It saddens me.

Speaker 2 (13:59):
I feel like I need to know what Mars Cheese
Castle is.

Speaker 1 (14:03):
It's a castle shaped restaurant specializing in cheese.

Speaker 2 (14:06):
Okay, that sounds a bite right. Well, I know we
want to talk more about cheese crimes and of course
those cheese detectives that you teased earlier, but let's take
a quick break first. Welcome back, to part Time Genius

(14:32):
where we're talking cheese crimes. So there are obviously lots
of these cheese stuff stories. There's this one from twenty
thirteen where a guy showed up to a manufacturer in Wisconsin,
forged a bunch of paperwork, then drove away with two
hundred thousand dollars worth of monster. There's a story from
France in twenty fifteen where thieves broke into a dairy
and stole one hundred wheels of specialty Conte cheese. They

(14:56):
boosted four tons, four tons of cheese. And there's another
of these high stories from a seller in France where
seven hundred blocks of delicious Saint Nectar cheese were stolen.
It's amazing, I mean, just how much cheese these bandits
are taking off with. It's not a little bit of cheese. Yeah,
it's insane, which brings us to cheese detectives. This is

(15:18):
great piece on the Today Show site about this officer.
His name is Inspector Georgia Cappovanni, which sounds right for
a cheese detective.

Speaker 1 (15:27):
And this is from two thousand and eight, so it's
a little dated, but the agency actually still exists. But
this is what the article says about him, quote in
the wild West of gastronomical ripoffs, men like Cappovanni are
a kind of sheriff. They're sworn judicial officers who can
demand admission to premises, examine documentation, and confiscate products at wholesalers,
warehouses or supermarket aisles. And according to the article, they

(15:50):
can even tote weapons if they want. It talks about
how Cappavanni and his men race around Europe protecting Italy's
very special products like matrella from Buffala is one, hams
from Parma or whatever. They'll go into what the article
describes as cathedrals of ham, the shops where the meat
is just air drying, and warehouses, and they'll poke the
hem with this special needle made from the shin bone

(16:11):
of a horse and that apparently releases these extraordinary aromas.
Then the inspector, who I guess is also a gormand
will sniff the needle to make sure it has that
special Parma proscudo scent. A friendly they see something like
a thousand Parma ham knockoffs in one of these raids.

Speaker 2 (16:28):
And then how do they catch these folks?

Speaker 1 (16:30):
Apparently, one of these ham counterfeiters had like twenty aliases
and the Spanish police have been chasing them around for decades.
But Capavani and his team have this whole network of
salespeople who double as informants, and so they tip off
the investigators whenever they scent something fishy.

Speaker 2 (16:46):
There are people out there doing much more interesting stuff
then we are legal and illegal. But are they now
doing this for cheese as well?

Speaker 1 (16:53):
Yeah? And more than stopping the heist, this team is
basically set up to chase ripoffs, right, Like the producers
know that if people start thinking parmeham is a less
quality ham and it's less sweet, then they'll start thinking like,
what's the difference between that and some of those sort
of like grocery knockoffs or whatever. Right, And it's the
same for cheese. So there's this scene of Cappavanni running

(17:14):
his hand across the rind and pointing out why this
branding on a food is clearly counterfeit. Apparently there's a
whole system of branding machines that the authenticated manufacturers use
that makes slightly imperfect marks to thwart counterfeiters, and the
machines are really closely monitored. They're switched out every three months,
which you know feels insane, but Cappavanni takes pride and

(17:35):
sniffing out the fakes, and in fact, he claims to
have a museum of hundreds of fraudulent parmesans.

Speaker 2 (17:42):
Yeah, I know, there's this whole world of fakes out there.
This is one of the things that kept coming up
as we were preparing for this episode. And you know,
the old saying I think is something like if your
cheese is fishy, it might be sawdust. I don't think,
I don't think. I know that's not familiar with that one.
I think mamma had it cross stitched on a pillow point.
But back in twenty sixteen, Time revealed a jaw dropping

(18:04):
report on manufacturers like Castle Cheese, not to be confused
with the Mars cheese Castle that you talked about before,
which produced quote parmesan that contains significant amounts of woodpulp
as a filler.

Speaker 1 (18:17):
It's like a cheese made for termites.

Speaker 2 (18:19):
Yes, it's gross. And some experts believe about a fifth
of the parmesan cheese bought at grocery stores is actually
mislabeled and representatives for the Emman Taylor Cheesemakers, which we
usually referred to as Swiss cheese. Say that around ten
percent of the Swiss cheese of the market is fake.
It's true for all kinds of cheese and chego Camembert,

(18:40):
but parmesan is hit particularly hard. Sales of parmegano regiano
cheese are about two point four to four billion, according
to Food and Wine, but fake parmesan takes an almost
equal wedge of the wheel, with about two point oh
eight billion dollars every single year.

Speaker 1 (18:57):
I didn't realize the size of the market.

Speaker 2 (18:59):
Yeah. Well, weirdly, cheese has been stuffed with more sinister
substances than just sawdust. And twenty twenty three customs officials
encountered a pickup truck transporting four large wheels of cheese
from Mexico into Texas, and they had hunch that something
was off.

Speaker 1 (19:15):
Here, which doesn't sound strange at all. I always load
up my truck with the giant cheese wheels.

Speaker 2 (19:20):
Yeah yeah, yeah, Well, actually an X ray scan of
these cheese revealed quote anomalies there which upon further inspection,
turned out to be seventeen point eight pounds of cocaine.
So that steals like that's an anomaly, you know, yes, yeah,
now this is fair. I have never I don't think
I've eaten cheese with a bunch of cocaine. But it's

(19:42):
a good idea hiding stuff in cheese. Like if you
wanted to propose, and you put a diamond ring and
you know, deep in a wheel of cheese, there your
you know your potential fiance would never go digging around
in there. It's a great place to hide stuff.

Speaker 1 (19:54):
Speaking of soft cheeses, do you know that Switzerland used
to have a cartel that was responsible for the popular
already a fun.

Speaker 2 (20:00):
Due Wait did you say a cartel? I mean it
was more of a union, all right, So why did
you say cartel? Though? I'm curious.

Speaker 1 (20:08):
I'm a Brooklyn dad. I need some excitement, and I
guess more than a few articles online referred to it
as a cartel because of the way they fixed prices
and manipulated the market. Anyway, it was called the Association
of Swiss Cheese Export Firms, better known as the Schweizer
kas Union okay or Swiss Cheese Union. This was an

(20:30):
organized monopoly designed to use cheese export revenue to offset
and milk production costs because of World War One and
the SCU fixed prices and production limits, and most importantly,
they restricted what types of cheese could be made in
the country. So actually Switzerland used to make over one
thousand different varietals and they reduced it to just seven

(20:50):
or eight, and they favored Swiss cheese, you know, or
what we know as Swiss cheese. It was super effective.
In nineteen twenty nine, Wisconsin newspaper reported that consumption of
Swiss cheese had increased in the US because of a
three hundred thousand dollars ad campaign run by the Swiss
Cheese Union, which it also copyrighted the cheese in the US,
calling it Switzerland Cheese.

Speaker 2 (21:12):
And so that's why when we say Swiss cheese, we
mean Emma Taylor.

Speaker 1 (21:16):
Yeah, And that was just the beginning. In the fifties
and sixties, the SEU ramped up their promotions and they
sent a young woman named Elizabeth Koenigstor to the US
as the ambassad Dress of Switzerland Cheese.

Speaker 2 (21:29):
It's a great title.

Speaker 1 (21:30):
She was beautiful, multilingual, and expert skier, just kind of
like the perfect cliche of like a Swiss woman. And
she would travel the US giving these cooking lessons for
dishes like Kisch Lorraine and fondue, and also teaching Americans
things like you're not supposed to freeze your cheese, which
was apparently a thing we used to do regularly. Anyway,
the SEU went really hard on fondue in the seventies,

(21:53):
mainly because it's easy to make and it requires a
lot of cheese. So they really sort of like flooded
the interesting and making fond and they ran these global
ad campaigns featuring these beautiful Swiss people in ski sweaters,
making it seem kind of healthy, healthy.

Speaker 2 (22:09):
It does sound like they're marketing and almost like a
sports drink in a way. You know.

Speaker 1 (22:12):
Yeah, it's almost like everyone should sub out your Gatorade
for a thermos of swisses.

Speaker 2 (22:17):
Really appetizing manga.

Speaker 1 (22:18):
But the SEU was everywhere. From nineteen ninety two to
nineteen ninety eight, they were the main sponsor of the
Swiss national ski team. So the team's actually wore these
yellow suits with cheesehole motifs. I mean, I just want
to show you this picture.

Speaker 2 (22:33):
That is amazing. They look like the cheese, I know,
and they actually had.

Speaker 1 (22:39):
Holes in their suit which caused drag, which is kind
of annoying to a skier.

Speaker 2 (22:43):
I'm sure.

Speaker 1 (22:44):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (22:44):
I mean, I feel like you're representing your country in
this huge athletic excellence performance and you've trained your whole
life to wear the uniform and the cheese suit. It
feels a little bit demeaning to me.

Speaker 1 (22:56):
Yeah, I think so too. Anyway, By the nineteen nineties,
the Swiss Center meant towards the SEU had changed. It
was seen less as a protector of this like national industry,
and more's a system of power abuse. Corruption scandals didn't
help either. In nineteen ninety six, a former SCU executive
was arrested for skimming at least three hundred and fifty

(23:16):
thousand Swiss francs and a cheese export price scam, and
in nineteen ninety nine the SEU was dissolved the Swiss
Museum rights quote. During the eighties and nineties, the Cheese
Union came to be regarded principally as a cautionary tale
of abuse of power in fondue.

Speaker 2 (23:33):
The abuse of fondue. That's great, all right, but I
feel like we should get back to your boring Brooklyn
dad thing.

Speaker 1 (23:38):
I don't think I said boring.

Speaker 2 (23:40):
Well, you know, when you were talking about cartels, and
there have been these links between the cheese industry and
the mafia. There's this story about al Capone, who owned
this string of dairy farms near Fondu Lac, Wisconsin, forcing
New York pizzerias to use this very like rubbery mob cheese.
And as the story goes, the only places permitted to

(24:01):
use good mozzarella where the old fashioned pizza parlers, you know,
places like Lombardes, Patsy's, John's, which could continue doing so
only if they promised to never serve slices. So, according
to the author Jonathan Quitney in his book Vicious Circles
the Mafia in the Marketplace, this is why John's Pizzeria
on Bleeker Street still has the warning no slices on

(24:24):
its awning today. Apparently neighborhood pizzerias that serve slices and
refuse to use Copone's cheese would be firebombed. But according
to historian Scott Wiener that we both know from Scott's
Pizza tours, the story is probably not true. It doesn't
really make any sense. He says, the reason that most
of these places don't sell slices is that they use

(24:45):
these coal fired ovens, which would just burn any slice
that you were trying to reheat.

Speaker 1 (24:50):
I love Scott so much. I remember the first time
I met him and I heard he was pizza obsessed.
His opening line was, so, what do you like about pizza? Yeah? Yeah,
it was like like CSS the cheese, and then you
just like went on to you know, give me this
fascinating history of pizza. But I just assume Tho's no
slices places were trying to sell you more pizza.

Speaker 2 (25:12):
Yeah, I mean they are. But the no slices might
be a little bit of mafia lore, but the mob
shaking down people over mozzarella is on the record. So
Joseph Banano, a mafia godfather, partially owned Grande this cheese
company based in Fondula, Wisconsin. That's where components handful of
dairy farms were two. So this March nineteen eighty report

(25:33):
from the Pennsylvania Crime Commission states that Banano quote initiated
a conspiracy to control the specialty cheese business in the
United States in the early nineteen forties, and that he
and his associates controlled the activities of the largest and
most prosperous specialty cheese companies.

Speaker 1 (25:51):
I love that they came out with that report in
nineteen eighty.

Speaker 2 (25:54):
Yeah, yeah, said I wanted to go ahead and take
care of it. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (25:58):
So we've got the mobs like this potential to make
a lot of money and they're putting a toll hold
in the industry, which is, you know, pretty standard for
the mob. But I also kind of love the idea
of al Capone having his own dairy farm and just
like sweet right, I know, just like nuzzling every cow's
nose before he puts them in the barn at night.

Speaker 2 (26:17):
Yeah, it's a weird image, but since we're on the mob,
the Italian mafia, or more specifically, the Camora, is also
pretty mixed up with buffalo mozzarella, which is made in Campania. Now,
in the early aughts, the Camora controlled Italy's biggest buffalo
mozzarella maker, the Magara Group. Now, obviously, mozzarella is hugely
popular as a cheese, which meant buffalo milk was basically

(26:41):
liquid gold for the most part, and that's what attracted
the interest of the Camara. So the Kamora started charging
this protection money sure, and in early two thousand and one,
during one weekend, two well known cheese houses just went
up in flames, La Perla and Barlodi, which helped them
make their case to the man manufacturers. Of course, taking

(27:02):
care of barns full of buffalo comes with its own problems,
like apparently buffalo are very susceptible to infectious bacterial outbreaks
like bruce iliosis, and controlling these farms suspected of bruceiliosis
isn't easy and it requires you know, herd depopulation from
time to time, and obviously that's not great for mozzarella production.

(27:23):
So often state veterinarians would show up to inspect the
farm and instead of getting to do their work, they'd
be met by the members of the Kamora at gunpoint.
Like sometimes the mobsters would within the herd by hiding
a bunch of buffalo.

Speaker 1 (27:38):
So state officials are there, they're inspecting the farm. Meanwhile
it's like one guy's job to hide a bunch of
sick buffalo.

Speaker 2 (27:45):
I guess, I mean, buffalo are huge, though, it's like
trying to hide a pack of land rovers. You know,
just starting to imagine this. But if that didn't work,
they would just force sanitary officials to sign the certificate
of good health despite the fact that the herd is
clearly infected.

Speaker 1 (27:59):
Yeah, seems like an easier plan be yeah.

Speaker 2 (28:02):
Yeah, So the Kumora's involvement in Buffalo mozzarella has actually
threatened the ecosystem of the entire region. They got involved
with waste management back in the nineteen eighties, and according
to a mafia treasurer who testified about this in nineteen
ninety seven, the Kumora had been illegally dumping and burning
millions of tons of toxic waste in Campania, leading to

(28:24):
reports of cancer clusters and other health issues.

Speaker 1 (28:27):
That's awful. So obviously a cheese can be involved in crime,
but there's no such thing as illegal cheese, right.

Speaker 2 (28:33):
Well, I mean, Danish feta is actually illegal. According to
the EU, feta was awarded the appellation of being a
designated Greek product, but Denmark was producing it and exporting
it to non EU territories, and so in twenty nineteen,
the European Commission took Denmark to the European Court of Justice.
And of course there are really gross cheeses, like you know,

(28:55):
Kasu marzu, so that's illegal too.

Speaker 1 (28:57):
Yeah, the Sardinian cheese with maggots that jump out at you,
which is pretty disgusting.

Speaker 2 (29:02):
I'd say that that counts as disgusting. And there's a
hairy cheese fermented in the stomach of a baby goat
and left out in the open air. It's this delicacy,
also from Sardinia called soukalu, and people are apparently selling
it from their cars. I guess that's what I read.
It's according to this piece and the outline. But it's interesting.

(29:22):
The outline rights that these illegal cheeses aren't just a
matter of unusual taste. There are also low stakes political
statements of people telling the EU or whoever they can,
that they can't dictate values on them.

Speaker 1 (29:35):
Yeah. I mean, I guess I don't want any of
that maggot cheese in my mouth, but I also support
Sardinia's right to protect their culture.

Speaker 2 (29:43):
It's good for you to take a stand, Mago. I
usually it'll make political statements, but that's a pretty big one.
And here's the mystery cheese you can definitely support. It's
amazing how much cheese comes up in crime novels, right, seriously, Yeah,
I mean, there's so many crime novels with cheese puns
in the title. There's just a few examples here up
to no gouda to bree or not to bree? Final

(30:06):
fondue that sounds dramatic, clabbered by camon Bear. I told
you there's so many of these shudder off Dale, No, No,
these are I swear, I am not making these up.
These are all real titles of books that you can
probably buy at the airport, I would guess.

Speaker 1 (30:21):
Speaking of which, I know you've got a flight to catch,
But how about we do a quick fact off before
you fly out?

Speaker 2 (30:26):
Let's do it all right, here's a quick one. Did
you know cheese can get you high?

Speaker 1 (30:37):
I mean, I've definitely shotgun to Pizzar before, so I
think it tracks.

Speaker 2 (30:42):
Yeah, that's fair well. According to a twenty fifteen study
at Mount Sinai, there's a chemical in cheese called casin,
and when you digest it, it can trigger your brain's opioid receptors,
which may be why we loved going out for late
night cheese dip in college so much.

Speaker 1 (30:56):
Yeah we did. Do you know that eatam cheese never
goes back? It just hardens, which is why it was
often taken to sea. And I hadn't realized that it
actually explains one of my favorite facts that eatam cheese
was used by a navy ship in Uruguay when it
ran out of cannonballs, and it actually want to battle
that way, which makes more sense why they had so
much old cheese on board.

Speaker 2 (31:17):
Now, okay, all right, well here's a fun one from Kotkey.
Did you know that in French pie charts are actually
called les Camembert after the cheese or sometimes and I'm
going to need Jess who's helping today, pronounce this one.
But is un diagram in fromage that is so far
away from what it works. Okay, we're going to go

(31:38):
with it, which is her way of saying it was
so off that we're just going to have to ignore it.
A cheese diagram. So Meanwhile, in Brazil, pie charts are
known as pizza charts.

Speaker 1 (31:49):
Which makes sense. Brazila is supposedly one of the places
that has the best pizza in the world. Speaking of pizza,
you remember stuff crust pizza from Pizza Hut do.

Speaker 2 (31:58):
I yeah, we'll ask for it sometimes and these commercials
where they encouraged you to eat the pizza the wrong way,
crust first.

Speaker 1 (32:06):
And weirdly, Donald Trump was the spokesperson. Okay, but pizza
had developed that in nineteen ninety five, and sales of
it were insane, apparently over three hundred million dollars of
sales in the first year. And this is from an
article in mash dot com. But the crazier thing is
that foods that are stuffed with cheese, like the stuff
Creuss pizza or Taco Bell's caesalupa, are guided by an

(32:28):
organization called Dairy Management INK, and Bloomberg actually refers to
them as the Illuminati of Cheese.

Speaker 2 (32:35):
Wow.

Speaker 1 (32:37):
Yeah, So this is from a Bloomberg article. For the
past eight years, the group has been the hidden hand
guiding most of fast foods dairy hits, including and especially
the caesalalupa. In twenty twelve, it embedded food scientists Lisa
and clintalk with the Taco Bell product development team to
develop a cheese filling that would stretch like taffy when heated.
Then they figured out how to mass produce it and

(32:58):
helped invent some proprietary machinery along the way. So apparently
the group has a two hundred million dollar budget from
cheese manufacturers to create cheese centric products to slip more
cheese into our food, isn't that incredible.

Speaker 2 (33:11):
That is wild. You You really saved the best for
last and this whole thing. I don't think I can
top an illuminati of cheese, especially in a cheese crime episode.
So with that, I'm going to give you today's fact
Off Trophy.

Speaker 1 (33:24):
Fun and I'm going to dedicate this to my colleague
Kate's dog, who I am certain is listening, always listens
to our show. His name is Cheesy or Cheese for short.

Speaker 2 (33:33):
I like that. I'm sure he'll appreciate that. All Right, Well,
that's it for this week's Part Time Genius. Thanks everybody
for listening.

Speaker 1 (33:52):
Part Time Genius is a production of Kaleidoscope and iHeartRadio.
This show is hosted by Will Pearson and me Mongaytiguler
and research by our goodpal Mary Philip Sandy. Today's episode
was engineered and produced by the wonderful Dylan Fagan with
support from Tyler Klang. The show is executive produced for
iHeart by Katrina Norvell and Ali Perry, with social media

(34:15):
support from Sasha Gay, trustee Dara Potts and Viney Shorey.
For more podcasts from Kaleidoscope and iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio
app Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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