"Cheese has always been a food that both sophisticated and simple humans love." M. F. K. Fisher
I have used that particular quote as my header because this post had its beginnings in a few things in the supermarket magazines, which is firmly aimed at the common cook, the ordinary woman - and man, and also one from delicious. which is firmly aimed at foodies.
For at one end of the cheese food spectrum there are processed cheese slices, and at the other, together with the sort of jargon/vocabulary/language - call it what you will - that is more generally associated with wine, you have the artisan cheese. At one end you have the time poor, money poor, harassed wife and mother making lunches for demanding large families, and at the other you have so-called gourmets dining in the most expensive restaurants and buying their food from providores such as Simon Johnson and high end specialist 'fromageries'.
So here are my few, mostly unrelated bits and pieces centred on cheese. One of which was discovered whilst looking for suitable pictures. So - in no particular order:
This is an ad for one of Coles classier dip options. Well that's what they say anyway, but let's face it it's factory manufactured dip, whether it's 'curated by our Finest Chefs' or not. I assume the capital letters are to denote a division of Coles, that devises their Finest range of products - more expensive and supposedly much better quality. Hence the very high quality of the food photography and styling on show here. Isn't it gorgeous? The garlic cloves are ever so slightly charred; the chives are snipped just so; ditto for the tiny rings of browned onion and the drizzle of balsamic vinegar, not to mention the carefully swirled dip. Why is the cheese in the picture? You don't generally dip cheese into dips. Well it's because the dip is:
"a beautiful blend of creamy brie, sweetness of caramelised red onion and bittersweet bite of balsamic vinegar to finish."
A really good example of how Coles appeals to people like me (Woolworths too of course) by borrowing the style, even the stylists of real foodie magazines such as Gourmet Traveller and delicious. as well as chefs such as Donna Hay. Well I guess the photographers and stylists don't care who they work for as long as they get paid. Classy anyway. Even though I shan't be buying the product because I'm sure I can do better myself. Well I hope I can. Which I suppose begs the question of who will buy it? People who aspire to be foodies but don't have the time or interest to do it themselves I guess. I wonder if they will leave it in the plastic container when they buy it or copy this 'serving suggestion'.
Still with Coles but sort of at the other end of the spectrum we have Pizza sticks with fondue a recipe from Anna Dinh who is a Coles Cooking Club member. A real and ordinary person in other words. And look she has come up with something original that the Coles team have been able to make look very tempting, if a bit lower on the classy scale. Moreover the recipe ingredients are almost entirely off the shelf Coles products including the Coles Kitchen Dough Ball (pizza dough). Fundamentally what it is is pizza dough, spread with tomato paste, dried oregano, shredded ham and shredded cheese, rolled up and baked, and then dipped into a baked round of camembert or brie. Cheese on cheese. I'm sure we could mock this, but it's actually an interesting idea that an ordinary person has dreamt up and which would be fun for kids to do. You could dip the rolls into something else - tomato sauce perhaps, or just eat them. No worse than pizza. And if you are really worried about all those off the shelf items, well you can upscale them - make your own pizza dough and tomato paste; prosciutto or pancetta, bocconcini or grated real mozzarella. Why not?
Still with the common man market, but turning to Woolworths, who, in their promotion of the seasonal ingredient asparagus, came up with these - Asparagus and cheese puff pastries. It's cooked asparagus rolled in puff pastry with sliced brie and baked. The tempting looking dressing is lemon juice and zest, honey, extra virgin olive oil and thyme leaves. There are actually lots of recipes out there for this same concept although the 'extras' differ. I actually think this is one of those things that looks like it's supposed to be finger food, but isn't really. Much too difficult to eat with your fingers. You would need a knife and fork. An interesting thing to do with all those little bits of brie that collect in your fridge though.
Let's move up into the gourmet class with La Luna one of the eleven cheeses produced under the label of Holy Goat. La Luna has won the Australian produce award at least once, probably more. The last of my delicious. editions to be thrown out had a small feature on La Luna and its makers, as they had just won that award - in 2014. The makers are two ladies - which is probably unusual - Carla Meurs and Anne-Marie Monda and they bought their farm Sutton Grange Organic Farm back in 1999, and sold their first cheeses in 2003. The farm is 150 kilometres north of Melbourne between Castlemaine and Bendigo.
All of their cheeses are made from the milk from their 120 strong herd of goats. It's a class act with class prices for the end product. You won't find it in the local supermarket but you might find it in a high end supermarket or a delicatessen, and definitely at the Queen Vic Market. Or now, thanks to COVID, you can buy it online. I have a vague memory of going to buy it somewhere once, but chickening out because of the price. But then I'm not a real fan of goat's cheese. If I can taste the goaty bit then it's not for me. Their freshest and lightest cheese is called Silk. Very artisan - they say:
"Hand-ladling the silky curd is an art form, a connected process, showing great respect for the high-quality milk."
Back to the common man and How to eat a cheese sandwich by Tony Naylor of The Guardian. I found this when I was looking for pictures. It caught my eye because of the hook that when this article was written in 2015, the humble cheese sandwich (with or without additions such as chutney, but basically plain), had just been voted the most popular British lunch.
"this is not just a snack but one of the building blocks of the British identity. " Tony Naylor
And we are talking plain here.
White bread, buttered with real butter - we're not talking anything fancy here and slices of cheese - Cheddar - real cheddar.
"It is one of those food items, like ice-cream or bacon, which can never be truly bad. From the cheapest block cheese to the finest small-batch, extra-matured cheddar, from the woolliest white sliced to the priciest artisan sourdough (its lactic piquancy always welcome), all cheese sandwiches tickle the pleasure centres at some level. So long, that is, as you haven’t made it on worthy wholegrain or the kind of seeded loaf that is like chewing through the leg of a wicker chair." Tony Naylor
I used to have cheese sandwiches in my lunchbox for primary school when I could stand the provided hot lunches no longer. They were truly revolting. For a time I would walk all the way home for a home lunch and then all the way back, which meant that I missed out on playtime, but then the school started allowing packed lunches so that's what I did. Loved the cheese sandwiches. Didn't like the tomato ones which were sort of soggy with a taste quite unlike actual tomato which I loved.
Last thing - and this is so interesting - and came from a link in Tony Naylor's article. Did you know that it could be argued that WW1 only began because of a cheese sandwich. Do read the article from The Smithsonian by Mike Dash. Its wonderful. It would be funny if, of course, WW1 had not been such a tragedy. Briefly the story is that the assassin of Prince Ferdinand was only in the right spot because he was eating a cheese sandwich - X marks the spot below where the Prince and his wife were killed. Read the story though because it is a true Comedy of Errors - well Tragedy of Errors.
There's always something with cheese in any of those foodie publications whether they are aimed at the top of the tree or the bottom. Often with bread. I guess the only place you wouldn't find it is in a Vegan cookbook or blog. Perhaps the appeal to the whole breadth of society is best represented by this quote from, of all people, Elizabeth the First.
A meal of bread, cheese and beer constitutes the perfect food."
So bits and pieces about cheese.