Monday, January 04, 2010

Cheese, Please

Right after the new year, I had a comment from a new blogging friend, Michelle of mickle's pickle.  Michelle lives in that beautiful country, New Zealand, which I had the pleasure of visiting on a twelve day cruise that started in Sydney, Australia.  She described her New Year's Eve and said she wished I could have been there to join her in drinking her lovely whilte wine and eating a luxuriously creamy Brie.  Ever since then, I have not been able to stop thinking about cheese.  I am, indeed, a cheese lover, in all its fine forms.  Sadly, consumption of it seems to change my form, thus I seldom add it to my grocery cart unless it is a special occasion. 

Years ago, about twenty-eight of them, I worked in the operating room at St. Mary's Hospital in San Francisco.  One of my fellow nurses there, definitely a kindred spirt, used to join me, on occasion, after work, for a bottle of wine and a cheese fest, at Golden Gate Park.  We would spread out a blanket, the cheese, yummy sourdough bread, pate, apples and pears, and have a feast for dinner. 

One day, we were at the cheese shop buying our picnic items when we noticed an ad for a six week cheese class.  It was to be a three hour class on Wednesdays, to include wine and cheese, dividing the classes into different cheese types, ie, monastery, strong, triple cremes, etc.  Neither of us had OR call on Wednesday so we immediately signed up!  The class was delightful, with about sixteen assorted people in attendance, some with very little knowledge of cheese, many, like us, familiar with a number of varieties.  Finally, the last class arrived - the strong cheeses.  Mary Ann and I really lucked out then.  Plates were passed out, bread was spread with the first sample, many grimaces were made.  "Ohhhh," I moaned in delight.  "Ahhhh,"  Mary Ann, smiled.  We loved the strong cheeses.  As person after person made ready to discard their samples of each selection, we acted rapidly.  "No, no, we'll take them!"
Thus, it was, that, on the strong cheese evening, we left feeling stuffed to the gills, totally content.  Even the Esrom, which filled the room with a most pungent odor did not defeat us.  Our classmates eyed us with amazement.

I don't think I've yet to meet a cheese I didn't like.  Some I'm fonder of than others but, of course, there are so many I have yet to taste.  When I do win the lottery, that is on my list of "to do's."    Since I did the cheese class and have been blessed, over the years, with travel, I've enjoyed meeting cheeses on their home turf.  Once driving from Geneva, we passed through a little town in France called Morbier.  All of a sudden, I recalled the cheese by the same name I'd had in the class - it was similiar to Gruyere but had a signature stripe of ash in the middle.  Originally, cheesemakers had leftover curds at the end of the day so, after pressing the curds into molds,
they put tasteless ash over them, to keep the cheese from drying out and to protect the
curds from flies.  The following morning, they would pour in the leftover curd from the morning
milking.  It wouldn't do until we turned around and stopped for lunch in the little town.  Of course, we were able to have bread and a piece of Morbier!




Another entree into the world of cheese was afforded to me through forensics.  One year the Academy of Forensic Sciences met in San Francisco.  I attended that event and met a wonderful man, Werner Berhnard, a forensic toxicologist, from the Institute of Legal Medicine in
Berne, Switzerland.  I'll have to tell you more about that in another blog but I did eventually get to his home which is in the canton of Fribourg, the home of Gruyere!  I ate so much raclette and fondue during that Swiss visit, I don't dare tell you how much weight I gained!

Of course, it goes without saying that one of my favorite desserts is cheesecake, followed by a good port with more cheese.  Ah, I'm hopeless!

P. S.  If you are need a little update on your cheeses, there are great resources online.  Two that
I especially like are:  http://www.cheese.com/ - choose from cheese by name, texture, country,
texture - and http://www.igourmet.com/, which has a cheese encyclopedia but also lists other
important items like chocolate ( they even have my number one favorite, MARZIPAN ) and olive oil - you can order from both of these places, though it is a good idea to locate and frequent a cheese shop in your area - one that gives you a taste.

27 comments:

  1. O.K. way past my eating time, and here I'm drooling. What yummy entry. You are a lucky person to have done so much traveling in your life.

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  2. Carmen we are true kindred spirits I'm sure. I swear a third of my grocery money goes on cheese(s) and like you I have not tasted a piece of cheese I haven't loved. Every night I have green grapes and a small wedge of cheese for a bed lunch.....I know it's fattening but I am worth it.......:-) Hugs

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  3. That sounds yummy! Nice post, combining people, places and bits and pieces of your personal story -- all centered around cheese! It just goes to prove that you can write about anything, if you do it with genuine interest and honesty.
    Isn't cheese good for the bones? All that calcium!
    Best wishes
    Anna

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  4. Marzipan! Do you know how much marzipan we eat in my country in Christmas? Tons! For me it's the taste of Christmas, and, by the way, I've just seen the chocolate covered marzipan bar in igourmet and it has to be glorious. I'm not a cheese geek but I enjoyed you post as I delight in reading my favourite storytellers' writings. My day couldn't start better!

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  5. This is a beautiful post !! Fantastic !! Thanks for sharing,

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  6. have never been fascinated by cheese but reading your post makes it sound so interesting!
    thank you

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  7. I too am a cheese fanatic. To stay within my calorie-to-body limit, I treat cheese the same way I treat chocolate - I only buy the expensive, high quality stuff, so I'm forced to eat just a little, and not very often. One of my favorite treats is a few bites of the best parmesan I can find, shaved and served at room temperature.

    ...oh, unless I get the urge to whip up a fab mac 'n' cheese casserole or the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Then everything I just wrote goes totally out the window.

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  8. Love post, Carmen. After reading about cheese I think I might indulge in some after lunch. There's a bit of Stilton waiting to be eaten.

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  9. Carmen I love cheese too. I guess really who doesn't.

    The class must have been so fun and then working with all different people and favouring their cheeses, yum.

    Love Renee xoxo

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  10. Oh Carmen MY DEAR, you are a real sybarite! ... how I'd love to join you in one of those cheese tours.
    Lovely lesson on cheese... let me keep the cheesecake and the porto.. yummy yummy

    Hey-- you've become so special to me... I've got a little present for you. Please go to my sidebar and take the "just prrrfect award" with that lovely kitten- no rules, no conditions- just accept it- right?

    HUGS!

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  11. Cheese! The reason I am not a vegan! I love them all except the fake processed ones! With wine, alone, on bread, melted..oh cheese!

    Now everybody wants some!

    Oh..and I need your address to send your book..it's all wrapped with your first name on it...sent you two emails but perhaps you don't use that address anymore. When you get a moment email me your full name, snail mail addy at breezedaze@gmail.com

    xxoo
    Breeze(rhymes with cheese)lol

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  12. Many, many thanks - it was a local brie and so magnificent. Cheese is my weakness/failing to, but what a wonderful failing. I live with Crohn's disease and a dietition I consulted in 2003 suggested I increase my cheese intake.

    Dear Carmen, I may over do the increase, but what a happy "overdoing". Have a lovely NZ blue lurking in the fridge and homemade quince jelly in the store cupboard ............ New Year Celebrations will continue here,

    With care, love and laughter,

    Michelle in Wellington xxx

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  13. Mmm...cheese, glorious cheese!!

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  14. Margie: I am a cheese addict. Look in my fridge. The only problem is that there's no type of cheese shop near me. I've always said that my dream would be sourdough bread, and cheeses eaten in S.F.
    You can go with me. I'll share.

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  15. Great post, Carmen! Your description and story made me want to have a piece of cheese, though my body can't tolerate dairy that well!

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  16. I love all cheese Carmen. I especially like the Greek Kasseri and Feta. It's very difficult to find Kasseri cheese but if you haven't tried it, do - it's fantastic especially with a hearty red like Chianti.

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  17. Sorry I'm late Carmen!! I love cheese and sincerely wish I could get to New Zeland!Hahaa...Happy night sweetie!!hughugs

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  18. Carmen, you totally suceeded at making me hungry for some cheese. I love it also. I think just about everything is better with cheese on it. Why does it have to be so fattening? I loved your story about the picnics. You are such a wonderful storyteller. I always enjoy your posts. trish

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  19. Carmen- I would love to join you for that lunch, although I go very light on the wine. Anyway, I have only met one cheese that I couldn't handle. It was purchased by a friend who served it at her cabin. She couldn't remember the name of it, but it smelled (I am not kidding here... it really did) like road kill after several days in the hot sun. I just couldn't eat it.

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  20. lakeviewer - I am absolutely blessed to have
    traveled as much as I have. I have great
    memories and photos to sustain me now that I
    don't have the funds to continue to travel as
    I once did!

    Bernie - you are, indeed, worth every piece of
    cheese you eat. Let's toast each other
    whenever we have a special piece of cheese.
    That will make the calories more fun!

    EmmieJDriskell - I should have translated your
    comment before I posted. I wish I could
    delete it. PLEASE DO NOT POST ON MY SITE
    AGAIN.

    Anna - thank you so much for your nice comment.
    Also, I hadn't given a thought to the fact
    that cheese is a good source of calcium...
    I will consider that and NOT the fat content.
    You are wonderful.

    fullet - I've been in Barcelona twice now, just
    before Christmas and my luggage is stuffed
    with marzipan on my return trip, not to
    mention all I ate during my time in Spain!

    Unseen Rajasthan - so glad you traveled from
    India to read my cheesy post!

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  21. magiceye - I did not see much for Indian
    cheeses other than paneer ( I so love sag
    paneer ) and bandal though I am sure there
    are shops were cheeses from other countries
    are sold.

    Janiss - I have not seen you here before so
    thanks so much for stopping by. Because the
    cost is so prohibitive, I used to try a new
    one periodically and savor a taste, like
    you, from time to time. There is nothing
    like home made mac and cheese, using several
    varieties of cheese - move over Kraft!

    Valerie - I always love visiting my friends in
    England. They have a good supply of Stilton
    and other great UK cheeses on hand!

    Renee - cheese is such a comfort food, isn't
    it? I don't have any except sliced
    Jarlsberg in the house right now but, when
    I go into the city tomorrow, I'm picking
    up a couple of great ones.

    I'm sending you lots of love!

    Dulce - sweetest of the sweets, thank you so
    much for the "just prrrfect award" with the
    sweet kitty. I will cherish it.

    Breeze - I can't wait to start reading the
    the poems. I hope your books is a best
    seller!!

    Mickle in NZ - I know Crohn's disease is not
    easy to live with. I am glad that cheese
    is something you can eat. I bet Zebby likes
    it as well!

    willow - somehow, I see cheese and good wine
    as essentials at the manor!

    Margie and Edna - Jo and I would LOVE to show
    you ladies about the city by the bay. We
    can take you to all the hot spots and the
    great restaurants - and the nice little
    cafes of which we have hundreds.

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  22. Icy BC - my oldest son is lactose intolerant.
    So far, that seems to be a problem I,
    merficully, have not acquired.

    Poetic Shutterbug - I had kasseri at the source!
    I can't remember now but I've been to Greece
    five times, I think, three land trips and
    two cruises. When I stayed in Athens, I'd
    go to one little place every day for lunch.
    I tried everything on the menu, practically,
    and they had the best Kasseri. Afterwards,
    I'd go to Syntagma Square to watch the
    changing of the guard. Some of those guys
    would make great margidales.

    Donna - you know I live in the San Francisco
    area, not New Zealand so be sure and let me
    know if you ever get out this way!

    nanatrish - I'm so glad you like the way I
    write! It's nice having you follow my
    blog!

    Sharkbytes - that Esrom cheese we ate in my
    class was very pungent. The taste was
    wonderful, though.

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  23. I don't like cheese but that cheese is really amazing !!

    Regards

    Valery

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  24. Irredento Urbanita - I would imagine cheese
    with a nice Spanish red wine would be really
    wonderful!

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  25. you know what carmen, I am such a cheese lover and i love cheesy dishes, i also love just snacking on cheeses =)

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  26. Ayie - isn't cheese the best? I think most
    anything is better with cheese in it or on it!!

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