Friday, May 19, 2006

Mothers and Cheddar - My Favorite Things

My mother arrived from the States in time for lunch today, and brought me a years supply of New York State cheddar, the kind I like.

When I came to France for the first time, I was a student and was on my way to visit my (then) boyfriend (now husband). At the time they had these great $99 Thursday flights to London and this was the way I came through. He arranged for an actress friend of his to let me crash at her place so could catch the first train out the next morning. We enjoyed a glass of the Grey Goose that I'd purchased for her at duty free, and had a wonderful conversation. It began when she confessed that her weakness was sweets. She did this as I watched her daintly devour one chocolate after another.

I confessed that I had a weakness for cheese. Thoughts of hot summer afternoons when I would click from the back door across the yellow linolium kitchen floor still wearing my cleats and make myself up a nice snack - multiple thick slabs of New York State cheddar cheese cut with a dull butter knife and carefully lined up between two slices of white sandwich bread slathered with mayonnaise, the sweet American kind, Hellmans. I would listen to the summer chicadas, spoil my dinner, and close this down over the cheese, peel the bread back, and then top the sticky cheese with a generous sprinkling of Morton's salt. It stuck to the cheese better that way. In those days I could down a pint of whole red cap milk with one of those sandwiches a day and never give a second thought to my girlish figure.

This was the cheese that I was thinking of when I confessed my weakness, and I barely gave it a thought when she laughed and said that in France I'd have plenty to choose from. Oh yes, those cheeses they have in France. I didn't know them nor was I focusing on what prospect was in their existence at the moment. It wasn't cheese in general, but one very particular kind of cheese.

The appreciation for the ubiquitous cheddar of my youth came only once I'd left my home town. Still in America but far from home, I realized that in Monterey California, they don't sell cheddar like the kind I knew. As I moved from place to place, I learned that no, in the South they don't have this cheese, and no, not even in Washington, Boston, Chicago. They don't make cheddar like Upstate Cheddar in London, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Moscow, Beijing, Hong Kong, or anywhere in Asia for that matter. Locally made, delicious and tangy, just enough resistance in the bite to tell me it is real, NYS Cheddar cheese quietly haunted me for years. I carried with me a secret longing, and never told anyone about it, until the day before my first visit to Paris. Brought to light by a little juice glass half filled with Grey Goose.

Today my cheese plate creaks with slabs of Morbier, Reblochon, Picodon, Bleu d'Auvergne, 18 month aged Salers, Rocamadour, St. Marcellin, Banon, Roves de Garrigues, and New York State Fisherman's Delight, produced in Chateaugay, New York. Thank you, Mama. Your visit, I know, will prove to be yet another great one, with this auspicious beginning.

Labels: , ,


Blogger wheresmymind said...

Fishman's delight, eh? How did she store them while traveling?

3:44 PM, May 22, 2006  
Blogger doggerelblogger said...

I would have loved to have seen the French customs officers' face when he saw what your mother was smuggling into France!

4:01 PM, May 25, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home