Saturday, 13 April 2013

cheese and skiing

The grim weather is lifting! I see no trees sprouting their green buds but have strolled into my first snail this year. Spring must surely be around the corners for the snails to have finally peeked out around their sputumous doors and ventured forth. Yet I still feel little motivation to shed my winter blubber. In fact, I have been industriously adding to it on account of my re-awakened love for cheese.

This all sparkled off a few weeks back went I went to France with my siblings (and friends)  to scrunch in some end-of-season skiing. I'm a little fanatical about this activity, and it is for causes like this that I have been marking my weekly stack of lab reports, and wailing inwardly every moment of it too. But besides being the most awesome sport in the world, this was likely to be the last time in a while that us three 'children' of the family would  ski together.

Time is grinding inexorably on and, more and more, each of us are living our own little lives. My sister is flailing about trying to clutch back what few few hours she can from the beast that is work, while my brother is abandoning us for the city of opportunity, New York. So next year will see me all alone without the familiar midnight bellows of my brother, ordering gamers to desist from their lemony ways.

Anyway, so off we poddled to Meribel, in the Savoie region of France. Admittedly the skiing was not stupendous. The snow was heavy and decidedly slushy, and for 5 of our 6 days out there, the visibility was so poor that at times we struggled to see the next marker along the piste. It was faintly disconcerting that we could not tell on which side of the markers we were on, either: safe on the piste, or carving to our doom. There was only one beautiful day with clean blue skies (in the distance, you may just be able to make out my brother making his way off piste in search of powder and, under grayer conditions, my brother and his friends). The food was good, but wasn't really the priority.

For that, it may just be possible that the best thing about this holiday was the company. The chalet we stayed at housed a few other families. The most notable of them constituted of oneof the most intelligent fellow I have every encountered, his lovely French wife, and their progeny who is also doing a PhD. Needless to say, under such lofty scrutiny I capped my prattlings that they may never know the true extent of our intellectual disparity.

With such a wealth of knowledge (stark remainder to self not to get too cornered into my own little subject- that fellow knows so much from such varied subjects too), those were some of the more interesting mealtime banters I have perched through. However, with regards to cheese, it was his wife and her precious trove of all the little Parisian idiosyncrasies that naturally took precedence.

Living in London and off supermarket cheese, I always felt the rind to be the best part of soft cheeses. Everything is gooey and creamy, and I quite enjoyed the mouldy taste. But with our continental companion, that was an absolute 'non', it spoils the taste of the cheese. Amidst howls of dissent she did grudgingly assent that perhaps it was acceptable, on the condition that we painstakingly scrape off the mould from the rind. But that was as far as cheesy concession was pushed, the poor lady fairly refused to speak to my brother after he suggested our common British practice of baking Camembert.

During that time, I managed to procure the fabled Mont D'or, as well as several regional cheeses such as Reblochon, Tome de Savioe and my absolute favourite, Beaufort d'alpage. Having now had a taster of good (and ripe) French cheese, I have to say she is right. The rind does detract and is a poor compensation for the true cheese flavor. But it is no wonder the British-raised likes the rind though. Of what supermarkets typically offer, it is cheese around the rind that is most mellowy ripe and flavorful.

So now I'm afraid I've turned rather snobbish towards cheese. Supermarket fare usually disappoints and it is a rare gem of a pasteurized cheese that satisfies. Harkening back to the cheese course at Le Cordon Bleu, no matter what concoction of bacteria we pump back into the milk after pasteurizing it, it is hard to achieve the spectrum that lived before (sans the bad stuff), so the poor cheese becomes just a little feeble.

As a result of this new obsession, cheese has been instilled as an after-dinner must, and also as a new snacking option- it has even begun to supplant chocolate. Indeed, I have mustered quite a selection. Not ten minutes since, this included three different Tomes (de Savoie infused with truffles, de brebis, de chevre), a Beaufort d'alpage (I had the man hack me 30 euros of the stuff after first tasting it in France), Comte, Mont D'or, Gouda, and my brother's horseradish flavored Cheddar. Sadly in the time it has taken me to write this post, I've nibbled through the Comte and two Tomes, and my remaining cheese stocks are worryingly low. Time to embark on another cheese hunt.

(There is a remarkable lack of cheese photos, mostly because I can't wait to get started and, as I keep my own company, have rather savage habits such as chopping off the point of the cheese.)

This blog will be moving to a new, more appropriately named, domain soon:
Updates soon to come!

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