Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cheeses: Read all About 'Em! It's Still Summer

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke and Cherries,1625

                  Food in the

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   I have just fallen in love with three lovelies: Pinot Bianco, creamy blue cheese, and white peaches.  All of which bring me to some new cheese stories.

  Max Watman, The Harvest: Field Notes from a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food (Norton, 2014)

Review by Daniel Boulud in New York Times Book Review (July 13, 2014):

“While I was growing up on our family farm near Lyon (France), I learned the importance of seasonal produce and fully utilized livestock at an early age. Max Watman’s witty and vivid accounts of producing farm-fresh products such as cheese and preserves in a modern world brings back fond memories and had me laughing throughout.”

Having spent part of my youth at my grandfather's farm in Dutchess County, New York, I share this enthusiasm for the sight, smell and taste of fresh, out-of-the ground or off-the-tree produce. No cheeses, alas, but green beans and heirloom tomatoes (uncooked, but we didn't know about basil and olive oil), small new potatoes, rubbed clean on my bib overalls and chomped, raspberries and "blackcaps" and currents plucked from a sunny vine, and peaches and plums so ripe that they were ready to drop from the leafy branches. Very, very few people today know that sublime experience. Maybe that's why we see only styrofoam fruit and apples so hard that they qualify as lethal weapons.

I fear that my generation may be the last to create our meals with 1940s sensibilities. 

And that is but one reason why your summer reading will be wonderful when paired with the more intense drama of traditional Castilian (Spanish) artisan cheese-making (sheeps' milk) in Michael Paterniti's The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese (Dial Press, 2013). There is much poetic language about the perfection of cheese, the fulfilling connection of man and his fields, and the wisdom and satisfaction of growing food in the old ways.

Still LIfe with Bread, Ham, Cheese (1772) 
Luis Egidio Melendez (Spanish, b.Naples 1716-1780)

Quote:  For Ambrosio, cheesemaking was both beautiful and primal: the milking and hauling, the pouring and harping, the careful progression of heating that depended on the right flame, all of it down to the work of one's calloused hands, leading after a number of months to some unknown destination, some new birth, some revelation rising out of the physical.  It was an act of faith, really (p. 60).

Sheep graze in Spain's Meseta region, a place of sever weather, summer or winter.

But we find here, too, a hefty slice of Spanish political history and small-village sociology, meticulously footnoted. It all fits together, as it should, to make a grand tale (See An American Man's Quest to Become an Old Castilian -

Curiously, or perhaps not, all three tales present a hero/heroine of a small enterprise which is threatened with corporate sameness, defeat and disaster.

And to complete your summer reading scene, mix yourself a 'Bella Fresher (invented by my son-in-law and named after my granddaughter Anabelle Ash Miguelucci-Moore. How's that for personal disclosure? (2 oz vodka, muddle: sweet basil, several chunks of fresh white peaches, a dash of sugar/simple syrup, and top with a bit of ginger ale (preferably Blenheim's). One could add a leaf or two of lemon verbena, as well.

Okay, if you're not up to purchase new books, check the library for Sherri Holman's charming romance about a heroin's cheese (Jersey cows' milk) life in a small town, Three Chimneys, Virginia, The Mammoth Cheese (Grove Press, 2003). 

Margaret Pricket, a single mother and specialty cheese-maker, considers a plan for her business to survive. She takes the advice and help of a preacher (actually, several clergymen) to do a publicity stunt, to re-create the original Thomas Jefferson era 1,235 pound "Mammoth  Cheese" as a gift for the president.

And from the Danish community in Minneapolis, MN, I learned this: for a sensational cheeseburger, smear a goodly amount of blue cheese on the meat mid-way through the grilling [See The Minnesota Ethnic Food Book, 1986].

 Finally, to complete the picture, order a  cheese-friendly T-shirt from Murray's Cheese - www.murray'

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