Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cheese and Cthulhu

Even though I've been in what I call my 'crazy busy' season for the last two weeks, other things besides work still find their way into my time and thoughts, thank god. In the mornings I've been spending maybe a half-hour to an hour before heading off to work reading the book American Farmstead Cheese by Paul Kindstedt. This is not a consumer's guide but rather a general guide to making and selling what these days we call 'artisanal' or 'farmstead' cheeses. I believe that the work 'artisanal' refers to the individually hand-crafted nature of the cheese, whereas 'farmstead' refers more specifically to cheese produced by the goats, cows or sheep of one single farm, rather than made from a blend of milk purchased from several locations.

I consider this book to be a 'general' guide in that it does not have specific recipes, but it does get quite specific into the chemistry of the ingredients and the process. I was initially somewhat surprised to glance at the book and see many molecular diagrams referring the the ionic structure of things like lactose and casein as well as detailed flow charts referring to enzymatic action and development of peptides, and I was, maybe, not as excited as I had been to plow through it, but it has been an enjoyable and enlightening read so far.

One particular insight has been on the variety and diversity of cheese throughout the world. There are literally thousands of named cheeses, but there are only so many basic steps to be found in the cheesemaking process (according to this book, there are eight), and there are certain basic ways each of these steps can be varied, leading to a much smaller number of basic cheese 'types' - maybe twenty or so. Such as soft-ripened cheese, 'mountain' cheese (swiss types, mainly), cheddar types, etc. The rest of the diversity comes from the individual character of place, terroir if you will, from the livestock used, what they graze, climactic considerations during aging, and the like.

Having cheese on the brain, I went over today to the wonderful Cambridge store The Formaggio Kitchen and purchased, more or less at random, some nice American Cheese (not Kraft singles). A mild but earthy and buttery washed-rind cheese from Vermont called, (ahem), 'Timberdoodle' and a nicely sweet and crunchy cheese with a lovely, lingering taste of caramelized onions called 'Roth Private Reserve Gruyere', which is also made in Vermont, I think.

What else is going on? For those of you with an appreciation for the cosmic horrors of H.P. Lovecraft or just an interest in oddball movies, check out The Call of Cthulhu, produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Clearly a work of love, this is also a fascinating movie. They filmed it as a silent movie, as if it had been made and released in the late twenties (when Lovecraft was writing). A stroke of genius, really. I'm not sure there is really any other viable way to capture the feel of a Lovecraft story or of the elusive madness found in his gods and demons. There's really no way, so why try? The moody, dark black-and-white sets, the surprisingly effective stop-motion animation for the monsters, used sparingly, and best of all the excellent soundtrack worked wonders for this almost untellable, unshowable tale of monstrous, alien horror dreaming in cities beneath the sea. You can get it from Netflix.

1 comment:

Brad Kenney said...

Bri -- I am guessing here, but I think you've made the only known post in the history of the blogosphere with the labels "cheese" and "cthulu"...!