Saturday, November 10, 2007


Yesterday when I was developing some further thoughts about Époisses, the idea of how the skin of the cheese turns orange over time took me for a fascinating loop. Somehow, a Cistercian monk, 400 years ago, managed through trial and error to arrive at a formula that resulted in that unique and colorful hue. This, in his mind, I imagine, was a color brought about by the grace of God. No doubt there were monks that devoted their entire will into the ritual of turning and bathing this cheese for more than a hundred years from the time it was developed, thinking the very same thing.

It has a glossy rich patina that now that the times have changed and things have happened just so, we can take it whole as a part of our everyday lives. We sit at the table with it between us and let it sizzle slightly on the tongue. We taste the sour contrast in the stretch and weft of our country bread that highlights the gentle pleasure that this cheese provides us. Time stretches back. This cheese has such a wonderful story.

One of the things that endears me to Époisses is the suspense and intrigue tied into its history. It is a cheese born of hard earned wisdom. Imagine what might have happened if M. Berthaut, when he began his project to breathe life back into the living memory of this cheese, had just given up when faced with adversity? What if naysayers or cynics discouraged him, and he turned his attention to other things?

I have a friend who is going through a difficult trial. Looking back on some of the situations I have managed to survive, although I certainly would never choose to go back and live through some of them again, I can see now that they were important in burnishing my own patina. I know, I know. That’s never what someone in the throes of a crisis wants to hear. But to concentrate on grace, in the midst of a time when life looks like a car wreck in the happening, is sometimes the very best thing a person can aspire to. There is a certain wisdom hidden in that. Years from now, you'll look back on now and be happy you made it.

This is a personal message to you, friend. Don’t let anyone talk you into giving up. The game is not over. It is your move. If you have to stop and think, do it. But don’t stop too long and don’t think too hard. Life is there for the living. Remember who you are. Keep going.

The box on the bottom of the stack was given to me by my father. I keep a watch that he used to wear inside it. The second is from China. It has a faint inscription on the top in Chinese, “prize”. The box was a trophy given in a calligraphy contest. When I received the box as a gift it still had ink encrusted on the inside, its owner had used it for ink mixing for many years. The object on top was given to me by a man I worked for. He picked it up for me while walking in the desert. I save these little things, they symbolize certain benchmarks.


Blogger SPN said...

how very interesting the threads that can be pulled when writing with food as the take-off point, and the depths of warps and wefts they lead to. Very nicely done.

4:26 PM, November 11, 2007  
Blogger Jann said...

How very well said~you are so wise!

1:49 AM, November 20, 2007  
Anonymous myfrenchkitchen said...

a lovely thoughtful post. And you're so right....good food for thought.

2:07 PM, November 26, 2007  

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