A Cheese Dream Come True
A year and a half ago, when I traded in my baker’s apron for my cheesemonger one, I was throwing myself into another one of my passions. In my home, I continue to mix and knead and shape and bake dough in all its varieties. That passion will never diminish. But, professionally, I am now pursuing cheese love.
This week, though, brought that passion to a whole new level. During my cheese forays in Europe, I am always looking for the next best thing and I found it one day on my brother’s patio in Brussels, Belgium. He was serving us a delicious breakfast/brunch with croissants and baguette from the bakery down the street, fresh fruit from the grocer and meat and cheeses from the neighborhood cheese shop. One of the cheeses caught my attention. It looked creamy and smooth but what stood out was the outside covering made of beautiful herbs. One bite and I was smitten.
A year later, while walking through the large market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir in Paris, I spotted the cheese again and I had to buy a slice. The woman who cut it for me also took off a very small bite size piece. As I watched, she popped it into her mouth, smiled and said, “Whenever anyone orders this cheese, I have a taste because it’s so good (il est si bon!).”
Back in Goshen, I sometimes dreamed about having it available but I knew there was only a small chance that would ever happen...until a week ago when I saw a picture of it on social media. I immediately called up the cheese company that brought it to our shores and ordered a twelve pound wheel. When it arrived, I was almost afraid to open the box, thinking my expectations would be greater than the reality. But when I saw it, and cradled it in my hands, I knew it was the real deal. I carefully opened up the wrapper, inhaled the alpine herbs, cut the wheel in two, and took a small bite. Immediately, I was transported to another place where Brown Swiss cows walk on steep slopes among colorful alpine flowers and grass, the copper bells around their necks gently ringing. I can see the low lying houses in the valleys between stunning mountain peaks. I can smell the freshness of the air, feel the summer sun on my face and almost touch the warm milk as it comes out of the teat. Rose petals, lavender, chervil and marigold cover the outside and give this Swiss cheese a complexity and flavor that carries me to the Alps. Every cheese is that way. What the cows (or goats or sheep) eat gives it its flavor. In this case, it comes from these beautiful alpine vistas that the cows pasture on.
When I was quite young, my family traveled from Belgium to the Austrian alps. We stayed in a small house on the main street of an alpine village. One morning we woke up to the sound of tiny bells ringing outside our window. A herd of goats was heading up the mountain to pasture. They were followed by the herd of sheep, their medium bells clinking as they walked. Next came the longer, clanging of the cow bells as the Brown Swiss made their way up the mountain. We felt lucky to see the procession. The street cleaner followed making sure the street returned to its pristine state.
As I bite into this cheese, and pound my foot on the floor out of sheer delight, and then cry tears of joy, I am back in that village. It is as precise as that. I also know I am truly following my passion. I hope you find yours to follow.
Here is a recipe for marinated cheese from Spain that makes a great summer snack.
1/3 lb. Manchego cheese
6 T. olive oil
1 T. Sherry wine vinegar
1 t. black peppercorns
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1/2 t. dried tarragon or generous T. of fresh
1/2 t. dried thyme or generous T. of fresh
Parsley to garnish