|traditional cheddar by Suzanne McMinn of Chickens in the Road|
Just the thought of it sends my heart into a thrill. She writes for the blog at the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. and she is making one new hard cheese a month from the book, Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll.
Sadly for me, this book is in a box. . . an unlabeled box. Hmmm. . . I may have to do something about that. I thought I would tell you a sordid little story about a woman, a baby, and some chevre.
Once upon a time, there was a pregnant woman who lived in the city. She lived with her husband and two little children and everything was lovely. But the woman who was pregnant was gravely ill with cheesemaker's fever.
Day and night, she wrestled with her desire to make beautiful curds and whey. She made ricotta, she made mozzarella, she made little rounds of white farmer's cheese, but the fever would not relent.
At night, she would toss and turn as though her bed was a raft in a turbulent sea. Obsession might be the only word for it. She dreamed of cheese, of drying racks, and cheese caves. To make matters worse, she had taken a job at the local market where there was a real fromagerie, but it only served to stoke the fondue in her soul.
One day, an old acquaintance passed by her cash stand and the woman was filled with happiness to see her old friend, but also a bit of shame to been seen as the lowly check out girl. Let's call her, Simone.
Simone was a beautiful woman and intelligent to boot. She had transformed herself many times, pursuing her interests with fierce intensity and single-mindedness. She was a very warm and charming woman and very easy to be around.
Brushing off her own embarrassment, the woman asked Simone what she was up to. Much to her amazement her old friend confessed that she had been making chevre. She and her husband had purchased goats and she had started making cheese and she had become so successful that she had begun selling it all over town.
Well, the woman was stunned. Not that there couldn't be two people with the same interest in a town such as this one, but what were the chances? The woman went home discouraged by her small yard, her lack of goats, and her lack of capital to change herself into a beautiful Cheese Mistress on the spot.
Shortly thereafter a local television reporter went to visit Simone and her amazing dairy goats. The woman watched and her bitterness grew. Now all she could think about was how Simone had gotten her dream. The gestation of her coveting outpaced the growth of her prenatal child at an exponential rate. Pretty soon, it was her only thought and conversation.
A few weeks after the local television show, the local paper dedicated many whole pages to the miracle that was the beautiful Simone and her artisan cheese. The woman poured over the pages while tears poured out of her heart for the dream she could not grasp. Her husband was beside himself and was becoming daily ever more convinced that his wife had gone insane, but what could he do? He stopped the paper.
The woman was paralyzed with envy. It seemed like everywhere she turned Simone's cheese was being talked about. She no longer valued the life that she had. She scorned the beautiful and talented Simone for her fortune. The woman knew it was mean and petty, but she couldn't stop herself. She would not even taste the cheese that was the idol of her scorn, as she had become so warped by covetousness.
Finally, when she had come to her ninth month of pregnancy, she could no longer bear the burden of the invidious cheese that pressed her until she stooped. She went to a priest to confess. So to church she went, ten before the hour when confessions were regularly heard. She covered her head, and said her rosary and asked the Lord to help her make a good confession. And when it was her time, she said the words carefully so that she might not be misunderstood. And when she was finished she waited anxiously for the father's good council and the weighty penance which was sure to come.
Only, it did not. What did come were titters and snickers. The poor padre had really been expecting something quite a bit more serious from this meek, round little house frau who had come to the confessional with baited breath and tear stained cheeks. But all this over cheese?! He counseled her to go home and think no more on the matter and to thank the Lord for such little sins. And so she did, and though she was absolved of her sin, she still struggled mightily with her temptation.
So again she went to church and covered her head and said her rosary and asked the Lord to help her make a good confession. And when it was time she said the words carefully so that she might not be misunderstood. And when she was through she waited impatiently for the prayers and the counsel of the good father that she hoped would come.
But again, it did not. Though this father was younger and more earnest in his zeal for souls, he did not know what to do with this pregnant woman who had come to his confessional. He thought this must be what his teachers had meant when they had told him about women and their emotions. He counseled her to go home and and to think no more on the matter and to thank the Lord for the child that was coming (that had surely driven her into this frenzy). And so she did, and though she was absolved of her sin, she still struggled mightily with her temptation.
A third time she went to church and said, "Lord, hear my prayer. Tell me how to be free from this terrible temptation." She covered her head and she said her rosary. And when it was time she said the words carefully so that she might not be misunderstood and she waited for the counsel that priest might have to offer.
And he said: "Pray for your friend and her goats that they have plenty of milk. Pray for her success and joy and that her cheese will be the delight of the city. If you will do this then you will be free from this terrible temptation."
And so she did. And she was. And when the baby was born, the woman ate many delicious ounces of the tangy chevre and delighted in the success of her beautiful friend, the Cheese Mistress.