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chalk & cheese

 
 

you are what you eat

   

 

G. K. Chesterton once commented on the ominous fact that "The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese,” but we will attempt to wax lyrical on this creamy wonder of the culinary world.  The French have developed a particularly fine appreciation for cheese and in many lycées a poster of the country’s seemingly endless varieties of delectable cheeses will sometimes hang on the wall right next to a map of the world.  The teacher will point to a particular cheese and quiz his charges about the region from which it originates: “Boucheron,” he will intone gravely and his students will hopefully all answer in unison: “La Loire.”  Next: “Chabichou,” and like so many Gallic parrots, they will correctly answer “Poitou!”

 

According to some legends, cheese was invented serendipitously by an Arab nomad who was carrying milk in his bag as he traversed the desert.  Never to be outdone, the ancient Greeks credit Aristaeus, son of Apollo, with the discovery of cheese, while it is under the Romans that cheesemaking most probably developed into a culinary art form -- in fact they kept a separate cheese kitchen or caseale solely for the production and aging of cheese.  John Lanchester is uncharacteristically terse about cheese in his wickedly humorous novel, The Debt to Pleasure, where he is so loquacious about all things foodie and French: "Dead milk, live bacteria."  He also, with a sort of sinister pleasure, quotes Joyce who called cheese 'the corpse of milk.'  His novel owes much to Brillat-Savarin, the famous lawyer, politician, and gastronome who was also the author of The Physiology of Taste, a treatise and meditation on the pleasures of food, and for whom the sinfully decadent (triple cream!) Brillat-Savarin cheese is named.

 

Goat cheese is particularly appreciated by turophiles or lovers of cheese for its tangy tartness.  Goats with their heartier constitutions happily consume bitter herbs which give goat cheese its characteristic sharp flavor - divine with figs or pears or wonderful when melted in warm steamy gougères Murray's Cheese in the Village and Zabar’s are traditional favorites for buying cheese, while Salumeria Rosi on Amsterdam Avenue serves a particularly delicate semi-soft Amalattea made from goat’s milk.  Another cheese mecca, Artisanal (officially billed as a Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar) has a superb selection of goat cheeses which are all stored in a special temperature-controlled room, including a nutty Garrotxa from Spain and the sinfully creamy, ash-covered Valençay from the Loire Valley.

 

And it was Brillat-Savarin of course who came up with the aphorism: Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are!   

  

 

Read: The Debt to Pleasure, John Lanchester

 

Read: The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, tr. by M.F.K. Fisher

 

Eat: Brillat-Savarin cheese

 

Eat: Salumeria Rosi

 

Eat: Murray's Cheese

 

Eat: Artisanal

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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