This blog is not for the light-hearted or easily offended. If either one of those descriptions applies to you, i would suggest you start drinking before you read this blog. A sense of humor is suggested. If you don't have one that sucks for you … find one and get a life!
Today’s guest on go ahead, amuse me is Lisa. Here’s what she had to say:
Thank you Lynn for inviting me. I’m Lisa, an empty nester learning to stop freaking about time and money so I can enjoy opportunities to travel, eat and make art. Sometimes I get it right—and sometimes not so much. If you said that anxiety is my middle name, you wouldn’t be far off. You can read about my successes and failures at www.missedtheboatagain.com.
When Northeast Flavor magazine asked me to write a story about the Vermont Cheese Trail I almost wet my pants. And then I wrote this story confirming my deep commitment–to cheese.
Cheese is very important to me. It always has been. We have a history together. If I were going to write about my life in relation to food, cheese would rival chocolate for the role of hero.So many of my memories are anchored in cheese.
My cheese habit began when I was very young. I started with mild flavored processed cheeses like American and Velveeta—gateway cheeses that lured me in unsuspecting and led me toward the hard stuff.
Although my current food-snob self scoffs at processed cheese, I can’t forget how much I looked forward to the crisp grilled cheese sandwiches my father made when I was eight. One slice of florescent orange American cheese sandwiched between two slices of Wonder Bread and spread with margarine. Dad made the sandwiches on an electric sandwich press that looked like a chrome toaster split in two and laid on its side. Sometimes the cheese dribbled out from between the bread and touched the grill, producing a brown and crispy tail.
That sandwich was as special to me then, as its ingredients are questionable to me now.
By the time I was in school I’d expanded my habit to common, but more serious varieties such as Havarti, jack and mozzarella. Certain cheeses had rituals attached. Like a pothead who enjoys rolling his joint, I looked forward to the Saturdays in the 1960s when my parents entertained. As soon as the company was seated in the living room, out came the flattened balls of Gouda cheese dipped in thin red wax skins—something Mom considered too fancy to ever serve to just us. The cheese was presented on a wooden serving tray that sat next to the omnipresent ashtray (which we kept out even though no one smoked). I peeled the wax back from my wedge of cheese, popped it into my mouth, then squeezed the wax in my palm until it softened into a sticky ball. Occasionally a bit of red wax would fall on the floor and get ground into the gold shag carpet. If Mom found it, I was grounded for a week.
New cheeses are like sex for me. I never forget my first time. I lost my Ricotta virginity when I was in sixth grade and we spent Thanksgiving in Philadelphia with my Aunt Matoo—whose name was a contraction of “Martha too!” that I created accidentally when I was two years old. The day after Thanksgiving, Matoo took us into town to pick up cannoli from Litto’s bakery. The filling was thick like the cream cheese we spread on our bagels, but sweet. Plus it had chocolate chips and was served in a crispy fried shell. I couldn’t believe my luck: sugar and cheese and chocolate and deep-fried all in a single food.I learned to gauge my parents’ desire to impress their guests by what sort of cheese they served. The rating system started with a tin of processed cheese-spread when Grandma Amy came, then moved up to a ball of port wine cheese or gouda. The most important to please guests, folks from Dad’s work, got Camembert. I always took multiple servings, anxious to experience the calming sensation of this triple cream wonder as it filled my mouth like a thick and savory pudding.
Feta reminds me of the thick, dry slabs that came on the salads my cousin Julie ordered every day when we traveled through Greece together. Humboldt Fog, a soft cheese with a defining stripe of edible ash through the center, and Drunken Goat, with its maroon rind from being soaked in wine for several days, remind me of the cherished friend who first served them to me at a small dinner party at her home.
Fromage frais recalls a drive through France with my husband shortly after our wedding. We bought a small round box at an outdoor market near Versailles, drove south for an hour or so, then parked along the Seine in front of an old chateau to eat our snack. If Brie and whipped cream had a love child, fromage frais would be it. We dipped farm raspberries in the cheese and slurped them down—until we entered the land of extremely fat and happy.
Burrata was accompanied by a lesson. I ate this cheese at the home of a friend who had allowed their Maine island house to be used for the filming of a cooking show. It had been a long day, with chefs from New York coming and going to shoot segments. I started the day star struck, a state which vanished when Famous Chef called from the mainland to complain to his assistant, who’d arrived earlier, that his water taxi was late. “*&%##!&^%,” he screamed into the phone in English. “&%%$#*$,” he repeated in French, so loud that I heard him from five feet away—right through the other side of his assistant’s head. The assistant, a gracious girl who had spent the morning washing dishes to help, swallowed, and took it like a man. I gasped and stared.
Famous Chef arrived half an hour later wearing his Famous Chef personae of sweetness and charm. “So nice to meet you,” he cooed, unaware that I’d heard his tirade. “So you are a food writer? I hope we get to work together.” I forced a smile.
The plate of buratta I ate later that afternoon had been left over from a film segment where it had been served sprinkled with shiny black pearls of caviar. The cheese had been FedExed twice–once from Italy to New York, and then from New York to Maine and arrived wrapped in a banana leaf like a homemade present. We opened package to reveal the cheese: shiny and somewhat free-flowing—what I imagine brie might be like if it didn’t have a rind. The taste was milky, with a little hidden tang that snuck up on you. “You have to enjoy it right away or it gets sour,” warned my host. I withheld a giggle. Buratta wasn’t the only thing that could go sour fast.
But the day that stands out for me most, in all of my cheese history, is the day I learned that I’m not alone.
It occurred three summers ago at the Southampton Writer’s Conference on Long Island. One evening, mid-way through the conference, the reception was overrun by a gaggle of elderly local vultures. I watched in horror as the flock migrated toward the cheese platter. The women, decked out in kitten-heeled sandals, capri pants and t-shirts trimmed in glitter and rhinestones, led the charge. Their husbands followed behind them in crisp-as-a-potato chip khakis, their bare feet wedged into boat shoes.
Within seconds, they had convened around the black plastic tray where the cheese was stacked in piles like miniature building blocks. They hunched their shoulders and raised their razor-sharp elbows to create a human barricade. Then, brushing aside crackers, grapes and strawberries, they grabbed for the tiny cubes of Swiss, cheddar and pepper jack.
No, stop, that’s my cheese, I thought.
I wished I were a bad ass, maybe a gun owner or karate black belt. I wanted to say, “Step away from the cheese and no one gets hurt.” Instead, I watched and pouted. I was embarrassed by my feelings of cheese possessiveness and desire.
When the group dispersed seconds later, only a crumb of cheddar and a half-cracker stained pink with strawberry juice remained. I wanted to scream or cry. But I held it in. What would my friends think if they knew how I felt about cheese? It wasn’t even especially good cheese…
But I shouldn’t have been concerned. “Rude cheese people,” said Tracy, a writer from Boston.
“You’d think they could afford their own cheese; we are in the Hamptons,” said Priya.
A couple more writers chimed in and I sighed with relief. I may not have gotten the cheese, but at least now I knew. I am part of a very large cheese sisterhood/brotherhood. There are probably thousands, if not millions of members.
I am not alone in my passion.
Almost everybody loves cheese.
Go ahead, amuse me is a weekly posting I will be having featuring another funny blogger. Or maybe not a blogger … you could just be a funny person. So, if you would like to be featured all you have to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and send me a funny post. If I AGREE that it’s funny, I’ll simply put up your post with a short intro that you write so that my readers will check out your blog. Of course, you also need to put up a link to my blog saying that you’re being featured over here.
See? WIN-WIN … hope to hear from you … or not!