My goodness! Has it really been three weeks since last I made a peep? Why am I surprised? After all, sometimes this blog taunts me with its blankness. And the more time elapses, the less likely I am to tiptoe over and reward its patience with a few pathetic words.
Friends, I did attend the cheesemaking workshop. There, in a church parish house, I watched as milk was transformed to cheese. And I discovered something.
You see, as much as I like cheese, I think I don’t like to make it. I’ve been mulling it over for a few weeks now, and I’m almost firmly in the buying-the-cheese-at-the-store camp.
There, I said it. I don’t like to make cheese. I like the idea of making cheese, but the actual making? Not for me.
Let me explain. Now, the two of you who have been reading this blog since its humble beginnings many, many years ago will remember that there was a time that I eschewed eating all animal products. Of course, that included things like milk, cheese, and butter, as well as meats of all kinds.
Even before I became a vegan, I was never terribly fond of dairy, and rarely had milk in anything other than coffee or baked goods. A tall, cool glass of frothy milk would make my stomach turn, the thought of eggs made me sort of queasy, and butter — well, let’s just say that the fat content of butter was frightening enough to my inner dieting pre-teen to keep it out of my food for years. (What? You don’t have an inner dieting pre-teen keeping your food habits in check?)
I’ve always loved cheese, though. (And ice cream, though ice cream inevitably gives me a stomach ache.) Cheese was the one thing I missed desperately during those lonely vegan days.
It’s interesting to think of how my awareness of food and personal food politics (if that is such a thing) has changed since I stopped eating manufactured meat at age thirteen. My concepts of what’s humane and what’s good for the land and the people who live on it have shifted over time. I like to think my outlook — and my choices — has become more holistic.
So, eventually, I became more aware of industrial food production, and realized the contradiction of the veganism I practiced. Choosing factory-made margarine over butter? Veggie burgers stamped out by the millions by industrial food corporations? “Cheese” made of hydrogenated oils?
The choice was mine to make, and luckily I was in a position to make it — I had access to real food. Good food. Slowly, I transitioned. I renounced my veganism, if only to myself. (Vegans can be a dang judgmental lot.) I bought more whole foods, and, when I could, got them at the Union Square Greenmarket. (Let’s be honest: I became obsessed with the Greenmarket.)
I’d always loved to cook, and my cooking got better and better. I hung around the cheese counter at Whole Foods, wandered daily into Russo’s on East 10th St. for fresh mozzarella, and gobbled down chunks of tangy gorgonzola on my salads.
Making cheese seemed like the most logical extension of my love for cheese and for homemade, or locally-sourced, foods. I made my own yogurt at home. Why should this be any different?
But I’ve found that the few times I’ve made cheese over the past few months, I haven’t enjoyed it. The best analog I can think of is this: it’s something like when you taste a meal you’re making so frequently that you don’t want to eat it.
So I guess alongside that dieting pre-teen, there’s still that curmudgeonly vegan, the one who wrinkles her nose at the smell of simmering milk.
I’m learning, though. Afterall, we do get our milk fresh from the cow at a local farm. And, well, let’s just say that I’ve started to enjoy that fresh cream in my morning coffee.