In my cosmology, the Good Lord spoke the world into existence so fast, there just wasn't time for any cheese to properly age.
Imagine poor Eve. It's the most important meal of her life. The first meal served on Planet Earth and the first meal she's serving to her new, adorable, buck naked husband. It's not like she had any competition but still. We ladies all know the way to a man's heart is indeed through his stomach and poor Eve had no cheese for the cheese course!
I imagine she felt like I do when there's a culinary emergency. A distraught expression on my face, both hands working my hair as if stimulating the follicles will inspire an idea.
Then God looks over his shoulder, sees Eve's distress and whispers, “Oh, by the way, let there be cheese.”
When a reader of Narcissism Meets Normalcy, Virginia, asked for my home address and told me to be “watching your mailbox,” I knew something was a-foot. But what!?! Nary a clue.
A few days later, the crunch of tires on our gravel road surprised me. There was a UPS man approaching our door and, in the words of Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, I wasn't exactly “dressed to receive.”
“Do you need me to sign for it?” I inquired sweetly, hiding behind the front door. He didn't and left the box on the top step. As soon as he drove off, I nipped outside in my blue sundress and that's when I saw it: “Williams-Sonoma” printed in the upper left corner.
“Ah!” thought I. “It's kitchenalia!” Like Clarissa Dickson Wright of The Two Fat Ladies UK cooking show, I too have something of a “kitchenalia fetish.”
But it wasn't kitchenalia. It was much, much better.
Proper French cheese. Proper, stinky, runny French fromage with rinds, no less! Michael and I couldn't stop smiling. Joy reigned supreme in the Thompson household because of three redolent French cheeses.
We did it right too. We didn't rush. While the cheeses slowly warmed to room temperature, I embarked on fromage research to more thoroughly appreciate the best gift ever.
Then something strange happened. A smell. A whiff. I just couldn't place it.
As I wrote to my friend, Patty, on Facebook: “About an hour after they arrived, I was like, 'Cuddles, did you do something on the carpet?' There was a distinct odor in the air. Turns out, it was the cheese! LOL I wanted stinky French cheese and boy! That dream has been realized!”
How Michael and I laughed. It was the funniest thing. Remind me to apologize to Cuddles for doubting her. She is the perfect little lady about using her litterbox.
Then it was time. Time for the ritual of cheese.
Reverently, I fetched down the Tiffany wine glasses that my old software vendor, Sycle.net, sent us for our wedding! Defying my own ethic not to “save your good dishes for the elf version of your perfect self to enjoy,” in seven years of marriage, we have never used the Tiffany. I was petrified of breaking them, so shell-like and fragile are they.
Then I fetched the $13 Bordeaux. I know. Don't laugh. I was just thrilled that Bagley Liquor carried Bordeaux at all. They didn't used to have any Bordeaux or Burgundy. Maybe they ordered it in for that weird gal, you know the one, she wears that brocade opera coat and a beret to the grocery store. Really shy. She'll talk if you make her laugh first. She's not as weird as you think.
I laid out the cutting board. Washed the cleaver I use for everything, even peeling vegetables, as Japanese chefs do and reverently pierced the first cellophane wrapper.
Comté: Hinting at Swiss and Parmesan, Comté is better. Made from the milk of Montbeliarde or Simmental (or crossbreeds of the two), there's no bitterness nor edginess in comté. No alkaline flavor.
As I wrote to my friend, Marla: "We begin, as per the French way, with the mildest of the cheeses, the Comté. It is beautiful. Hints at the flavor of Swiss cheese, but without the bitterness and the holes. Smooth and nutty, it's hard, dry and Michael's favorite. Absolutely elegant. Might be good on pasta."
Definitely good on a hamburger! And I know because, merely for the sake of in-depth research for this blog, I tried it. Twice. That is the extent of sacrifice and research I am prepared to make for you, dear readers.
Tomme des Pictons: We move on to the I-can't-find-out-much-about-it-online Tomme des Pictons produced in either the French Alps or Switzerland. Of the three cheeses in Williams-Sonoma's French Cheese Collection, the tomme is my absolute favorite. Soft. Smooth. Oily. Tangy. With a line of decorative ash down the middle, it's just plain fun to eat. I had some apprehension before eating ash, but it wasn't gritty at all.
Why ash, you ask? The rind of the cheese was traditionally rubbed with ash to preserve and protect it. If that turns you off, just remember that our ancestors combined ash with fat to make soap. Ash will fertilize your garden. Ash is better than sand or salt for traction if your car is stuck on an icy slope. My Amish friend once rescued a telephone company truck stuck in a snowy ditch with just a bucket of ash. There's a lot of goodness in ash.
Langres: “The coup de grâce is the soft, melty Langres,” I wrote to Marla. “It's not turned during curing leading to the signature 'crater' in the middle of the top. This cheese will melt all by itself. It's quintessentially 'soft and stinky.' Delicious...but definitely eat it on bread. Just a little goes a very, very long way. I've sneaked nibbles to the dogs and they adore it!”
Michael, however, did not. And because he's Michael, he let me know, loudly, clearly and with the crude kind of eloquence that makes him so adorably irritating.
So it was that I found myself curled up in bed, far from Michael's comments about “dirty socks,” the better to enjoy the Langres in peace and solitude. Oh, who am I kidding!?! There were four eyeballs and two dripping tongues watching my every move, begging for Langres rinds. They may be dogs but they know a good thing.
Virginia's gift settled an inner debate that has long raged. Buy “cheap” grocery store cheddars and colbys that never satisfy or spend a little more for “the good stuff” that satisfies and lasts forever?
The good stuff. Oh, definitely the good stuff!
Thanks for reading and, Virginia, thank you yet again for your inspirational gift! It may be “just cheese” but it's gastronomically life changing!
I dislike cooking but since I'm obliged do it, the result must be spectacular or it's a waste of time and effort. That's why I seek out the best dishes and culinary techniques to test and perfect before sharing them with you!
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