Many of Italy’s 25,000-strong Sikh community originate from India’s Punjab region but have found their calling producing Parmesan and prosciutto ham in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. Most are employed as dairy hands but some, such as Singh, are taking over key roles in preparing the sharply flavoured hard cheese grated onto pasta dishes and shaved into salads the world over. “I looked for any work when I first arrived, even as a dishwasher. I was ready to do anything, but I like being a cheesemaker a lot,” said the 34-year-old father of two.
…There aren’t Italians in the industry any more. Making Parmesan means long hours: you have to work weekends, holidays, every day of the year. Italians have money and the young won’t do the job any more,” he said. “I’ve stayed because I’m passionate about it, you have to be,” said the 71-year-old as he supervised Singh stir vat after vat of slowly heated cow’s milk, breaking up the curds with a huge, unwieldy whisk.
“We’re really lucky to have found foreigners to milk our cows”.
At the dairy in nearby Novellara, which specialises in producing milk for making Parmesan, half the labourers are Sikhs, prized as methodical, hard workers who are eager to fill the posts that open as Italians desert the industry. By Italian standards, the money is very good too, with Sikh cheesemakers earning up to 2,000 euros (USD 2,800) a month.
“Most of our workers are Indian,” said farmer Stefano Gazzini. “They are more dedicated to their work. They seem to have integrated well into the community, and even have their own temple.”
The story is here and for the pointer I thank Kurt Schuler.
Addendum: Here is an NYT version of the story as well.