Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is that cheese I smell?

I am incredibly antsy to get back to the farm. I work on a small goat farm in Western North Carolina that produces quite possibly the best goat cheese you've ever tasted. Unfortunately, the goats have not yet given birth and so cheese production is at a halt. No doubt this brief respite is a welcome to the family that runs the farm, but I am ready. I am ready to get off this campus and get my hands in a great big vat of chevre and come home smelling like feta.

Cheesemaking has had an interesting effect on me. When I worked in an ice cream parlor I got to the point where I hated ice cream. That hatred has faded into ambivalence, but I will never enjoy ice cream the way I did before I worked there. Cheesemaking, however, has made me almost fanatical about cheese. Eating cheese is about as close to a religious experience as I will ever get. I like to mull over a piece of cheese, letting it melt on my tongue, closing my eyes to get the full impact of the flavor and the texture. I treat cheese royally, never pairing it with mediocre bread, fruit, or wine. Only the best for the cheese. I guess I realized I have the cheese disease bad when I went home for Christmas and my mother had bought some of that spreadable herbed cheese that is sealed airtight with plastic (always a bad sign). I almost snorted when she put it on the table. I sort of turned up my nose and tasted it warily. One bite was enough to tell me that it was not the real mccoy. No need to waste my tastebuds on something so mediocre.

But then really good cheese is something to be stuffy about, I think. I never cease to be amazed at the number of different cheeses that can be produced with only milk, salt, and a culture. Then there are the cheeses that you sneak dried fruit, peppercorns, herbs, and ash into. Because cheese is so complex and yet so basic, gourmet and yet a staple, and so culturally diverse I feel that compromising on mediocre, or worse yet, processed (shudder) cheese is sinful. Having tasted truly great cheese I will never be able to go back. Don't even ask me about American cheese.

I actually met someone the other day who claims to hate cheese. I did not think this was possible. I know there are people who don't eat cheese for various reasons, but I don't think "I don't like cheese" has ever been one of those. Twas a truly shocking revelation. I think I ended up challenging him by saying that he had probably never tasted "real" cheese and that if he wanted I could enlighten him with some "real" cheese. I'll admit, growing up on Kraft Singles and Velveeta is like growing up in Plato's cave. The light is really bright at first, and may seem unpleasant, but the world outside is infinitely more interesting.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

The goat farm! soon... Girl, I'm home eating Amish white sharp cheddar with wine. Next week, we're trying some of their raw cheddar. I miss my basil and garlic goat cheese, but I'm getting plump on it! (Not that the wine and cheddar will help).