Parmesan: Window Shutters or Cheese?

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    The word “Parmesan” probably conjures thoughts of the Italian-style cheese or the dishes it deliciously accents and lends its name.

    But the term as it applies to popular, cheese-centric fare like chicken Parmesan and Parmigiana may actually be rooted in window shutters. In particular, the shutter style known today as louver shutters.

    Say Cheese: Parmesan, Parmigiano and Parma

    In the culinary world, Parmesan is a hard, sharply flavored, cow’s-milk cheese that’s styled after Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    To be classified as the latter, the cheese can only come from specific regions of northern Italy and must be aged for at least one year. These provinces include Parma and Reggio Emilia (Parmigiano and Reggiano are their respective Italian adjectives).

    The history of Parmigiano-Reggiano is believed to date to the 13th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monks in the Parma area sought to create a long-lasting cheese. By the 15th century, the cheese was widely used throughout Italy and traded through Mediterranean ports.

    But the names Parmigiana and Parmesan as they apply to traditional, layered dishes like eggplant parmesan, or Parmigiana di melanzane, may not relate to their regional birthplaces. The terms may instead be a visual reference to the slats on louver shutters.

    From Louver Shutters to Cheesy Comfort Food

    Some food historians and food writers believe the use of Parmigiano and Parmigiana (and ultimately Parmesan) relative to certain food dishes stems from the word “palmigiana.” Parmigiana is not a place, but rather an old Sicilian term for “louver.”

    Supporters of this theory offer that Parmigiana likely originated in Sicily — nearly 900 miles south of Parma — and historically would have used a different cheese or a cream sauce among the layers. The name refers not to the cheese, but to the casserole’s resemblance to the stacked louvers on shutters, to their “palmigiana.”

    The progressive use of shutters throughout Europe coincided with trade growth for regional goods that could stand up to travel and shipping, such as cheeses. Early louver shutters were used to provide ventilation and shield interiors from pests and the elements.

    As Parmigiano-Reggiano became more widely available throughout Italy and beyond, it became a fixture in Parmigiana and similar dishes. Although the names Parmigiana and Parmesan stuck because of the cheese, you may think about shutters the next time you enjoy an Italian casserole with louver-like layers.

    Contemporary Louver Shutters

    While the names “palmigiana shutters” and, alas, “Parmesan shutters never caught on, the shutter style remains popular today.

    Modern louver shutters are available in both decorative versions and functional models. Decorative louver shutters feature blades that are fixed in place and sealed; operable louver shutters have working slats that can be raised or lowered to manage light, airflow and privacy.

    Both ornamental and functional louver shutters can be made with varying trim options and louver sizes. Louver shutters may be crafted from a moisture-resistant premium wood or a durable, no-maintenance PVC like Endurian®.

    Louver shutters are often ideal for historic and classically styled homes, but their versatility and clean lines also make them perfect for many contemporary designs. Louver shutters can be broadly personalized via beautiful stain finishes, vibrant standard and custom colors, and diverse decorative hardware.

    Like Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Parmigiana, louver shutters are enduring cultural icons with a rich history. And, like those storied cheeses and culinary standbys, they can be prepared to suit nearly any taste.

    Timberlane: Quality Shutters with Character, Curb Appeal

    Timberlane is dedicated to making the world’s finest shutters.

    Backed by skilled artisans and knowledgeable design consultants, Timberlane has nearly 30 years of experience handcrafting custom shutters for historic buildings and luxury homes. We love collaborating with homeowners and trade professionals to create unique shutters that enrich each home’s architectural style and provide long-lasting curb appeal and performance.

    To learn more about shutter styles and personalization options, or to request a quote, connect with Timberlane today.


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