When I was in the 9th grade, I had fairly safe music favorites. My parents introduced me to the Beatles before I could walk, and I wore out my father’s copy of Sgt. Pepper’s on my Fisher Price record player before I was 8. We grooved out to Barry Manilow (oh Mandy), Peter Paul and Mary, and the Allman Brothers. My brother and I liked to pretend that we were conducting the symphony when my dad put on Beethoven’s 9th, waving ballpoint pens in the air as we stood up over the back of the couch. I think it was a vigorous drumming session to “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” that left the green naugehyde couch permanently stained with splotches of blue ink.
There was also Stevie Wonder, who has always made me dance. And the Jethro Tull album my father owned that kind of creeped me out, with the ghostly skull on the front. Even so, they had flutes in their band.
And by the time I hit the 9th grade, I had not one streak of rebellion in me. Painfully shy and awkward as hell, I did not seek out new bands that would make my parents shake their heads and say, “Oh, kids these days.” Now I listen to Talking Heads and Sonic Youth and Squeeze and XTC, happily. (Of course, 19 years later, this is hardly rebellious music either.) But at the time, I didn’t even listen to the radio, just the record albums I knew.
Except one hot afternoon, in the cool darkness of my room, I turned on KROQ, this station I heard about from students talking around me in math class. New music. Cool music. I wanted to try.
The first song that came out was “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell. Now, of course, this is a cheesy 80s hit, a cliche. (But I defy you to not start singing it right now.) But at the time, it was weird. All those jangly chords and slightly off-kilter rhythms. It scared me, a bit. And fascinated me. I started listening to the radio, just to hear it again. That’s how I discovered other bands, like U2, when they got their first radio play. I started listening to music that wasn’t always safe.
Goat cheese reminds me of Tainted Love.
Bear with me.
How many of you, who did not grow up in France, ate soft chevre when you were kids? Most of us did not. Danny says he did not encounter goat cheese until he was in culinary school, and then thought, “What the f– is this?” I think the first time I ate it was in New York, when I was in my 30s. It seemed just as strange and jangly — soft and crumbly in texture, with a definite acidic tang — as that Soft Cell song had seemed to me at the time.
Now, however, goat cheese seems like a staple food around here. We always keep a log in the refrigerator, to smoosh onto salads and dollop onto scrambled eggs at breakfast. Right now, we’re enjoying this La Buchette log from France, by happenstance. It’s assertive and truly tangy, no hiding what it is. But word is there’s a woman on the island who makes her own goat cheese, and I’m eager to try it.
If music is food, then the Beatles are crisp apples, sauteed spinach, hamburgers, and cherry pie. Always good. Still surprising. If goat cheese is Tainted Love, then gizzards and smoked chardonnay foam are the Sex Pistols. Goat cheese is the gateway food to other, stranger music. All you have to do is open your mouth and try.
And you? When did you discover goat cheese? And how do you like to use it? What’s your favorite kind?