As the Chef and I were rounding the corner, toward the restaurant, we were deep in conversation about a dear friend of ours. Serious and absorbed, we wondered why people grow jealous in relationships, and how our friend could best take care of herself. Is anyone surprised that this led us to sweetly cooing about our love? In the middle of murmuring to me, gushy and low in his throat, the Chef immediately bounded to ten-year-old kid, Christmas-morning excited: “The Peterson truck is here!”
He nearly jumped out of the car before I could bring it to a stop. “Go! Go!” I exhorted, my voice as raised and quavery as his.
Not much can interrupt us from our eyes-locked, in-love-with-each-other talking. But a giant semi-trailer truck full of cheese? That will do it every time. (That, and the perfectly placed smart-ass comment that cracks us both up.)
Oh god, I love cheese. Once, about a decade ago, I decided to give up cheese, in a misguided attempt to lose weight. Walking down the aisles of the grocery store, I felt a bit like a drug addict trying to be good, but desperate for a fix. Everything I wanted to eat contained cheese. I checked the labels of every food, just to see if I could eat it. (Actually, I realize now, that was pretty good preparation for going gluten-free. It was the first time I truly examined labels on food.) Six weeks later, I gave up. I shaved a small slice of Irish cheddar off a creamy white block, and I was done. I have never looked back.
What is life without cheese?
(I’m so sorry, those of you cannot eat dairy. Look away.)
Once every few weeks, the Chef orders wheels of cheese for the restaurant from Peterson’s cheese, here in Seattle. One of the most delicious thrills of watching him plan a menu is listening to the various delectables he might order. Triple cream? Sheep’s cheese from Spain? A Drunken goat?
Today, he pulled four surprises from the large box. A Saint Nectaire, cow’s milk cheese made in the mountains of Auvergne, in France. The description? “…a wonderful combination of a summer pasture and sweet, fruity milk flavors.” Valée dAspe, a goat cheese from the Basque area of the Pyrénées: “…fruity, tangy, a little salty…finishes with a wonderful caramelized nuttiness that makes you reach back for more.” And a Brique Agour, a sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region of Spain, crumbly and nutty, with a rich flavor, which has been aged for at least four months before it is shipped to the United States.
I always think about that, when I look at food before me: how many hands have touched this before it reached mine? Where did this food begin? On a small farm in Spain? In the mountains of France? In the udders of a cow? Given from a goat? Every bite of food we eat comes with stories.
(Unfortunately, the fourth cheese he ordered was a blue from the Rogue River creamery. Their blue molds begin in bread, which makes their beautiful cheese forbidden to me. However, when I called their customer service number yesterday, to see if I could eat some, a lovely woman did inform me that strides are being made toward an artisanal mold that comes from something other than bread. As soon as it works, they will begin using it.)
We both sighed a little, as we looked at the cheese before us. And then we laughed, as I stood on a chair to do a photo shoot with the cheese.
Let me tell you, the Chef and I have no criminal tendencies. (Well, I may have borrowed a copy of Gourmet magazine from the dentist’s office, recently.) But if we were to ever take up a life of crime? We would never, like Bonnie and Clyde, go on a fast ride through the United States, stylish and savvy, robbing banks. Instead, we’d be far more likely to hijack a Peterson’s cheese truck, throw the driver a pound of Roquefort Vieux Berger, and ride off into the sunset, nibbling on goat cheese as we go.