Star Trek: Generations was on TV the other day, and boy is Malcolm McDowell great. As the main villain, he really chews up the scenery. The movie is all about the passage of time, and at one point, McDowell's character polishes off his early 20th century American lit degree and quotes a line from Delmore Schwartz's Calmly We Walk Through This April's Day. "Time is the fire in which we burn," it goes. It's a ferociously mournful sentiment, but I have a happier reminder of the implacability of Father Time sitting in my refrigerator right now: cheese.
As with any foodstuff that dances with microbial intervention -- wine, beer, bread -- cheese is the product of a process running downhill. We set the conditions, and we watch the magic happen. Some little critter, be it yeast or lactobacillus, eats the nutrients we provide it. When we tell it to stop, the other end of the bargain is glorious fermentation--perhaps the most ancient of all food sciences.
Before you accuse me of waxing rhapsodic over wax paper-wrapped snacks, remember that we as a state have embraced the label "cheeseheads." It's in the water. I can't help it. And really, there are cheese recipes written on the walls of Egyptian tombs. There are cheese recipes written in Linear B for crying out loud, and we've only really understood that script for fifty years or so. Cheese is the very definition of a time-honored tradition.
In the realm of time-honored cheese traditions, Tony and Julie Hook are like monks in the abbey. Tony has been a licensed cheesemaker for over 35 years, and he and his wife have been running on the Capitol Square.
There was a minor fiasco involved in finally getting that half-pound in my grasp, but after pulling a Solomon and giving half to some friends who weren't as lucky, I finally had it all to myself (and my wife, of course). Fromagination was kind enough to package it in a nice gift bag with some tissue paper, a little card, and a message from the Hooks on how best to enjoy the cheese. While those instructions could have been limited to "Put in face and be happy," the extra effort was appreciated nonetheless.
The recommended pairing is either a nice bottle of wine (presumably something red and chewy) or a hearty stout, if you're a beer person. I went with the latter, and knowing that it's now the season for it, I chose the Milk Stout from This cheddar is a multisensory experience, and a rare one at that. There's only 1,200 pounds of it, and the current batch is already sold out. Hook's says that more will be available in March, but the word is that Fromagination's allotment has already been claimed by a crowded waiting list. Speculation has held that this is the oldest American cheddar on the U.S. market, although at least
This cheddar is a multisensory experience, and a rare one at that. There's only 1,200 pounds of it, and the current batch is already sold out. Hook's says that more will be available in March, but the word is that Fromagination's allotment has already been claimed by a crowded waiting list. Speculation has held that this is the oldest American cheddar on the U.S. market, although at leastmade by suggestion of donating an equivalent dollar amount to a food pantry or other charity. But I don't think there's any guilt in taking part in a unique and delicious food phenomenon that you can tell your grandkids about.