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!
Photo from http://www.artisanalcheese.com/
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.