Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CHEESIER AND CHEESIER

There have been quite a few responses and questions about the "Rat Trap Cheese" post, and the closest thing we've found in Indiana is plain old Sam's cheddar in the five-pound block. We keep one going in the fridge at all times, except when we've just come back from Alabama (and sometimes in conjunction with). We like it just by itself, for a nibble, or on a cracker, grated for grilled cheese sandwiches, or scattered on just about anything cheese-worthy.

I do, however, draw the line at Paminna Cheese. THAT recipe is sacrosanct, and sharp cheese it will always be.

The place we stop is called The Smokehouse, down I-65 at the Pine Apple exit---you just know something in such a deliciously-named place must be good. We always pick up five pounds or so on the way down, set the whole thing on the dining table with a knife, and everyone who comes by shaves off a bit for snacking.

At any meal, no matter what else I've prepared for the assorted family coming by for a visit, that cheese is still the centerpiece, and whoever has dropped in will just help themselves to a piece. It's like a foreign delicacy, though it's always available within driving distance. The cheese slowly dwindles, and is re-wrapped and bagged until it's just a shadow of its former glory.

By the time we've packed the car, had the last cup of Folger's, said our goodbyes, the cheese is a forlorn little slump, to be melted into a sandwich or onto a dish of pasta for those left behind. Pardon. I should have said "Cheese and Macaroni." That's the proper term.

And we pick up our OWN five pounds for the long drive home. Chris' trusty pocket knife will whittle us off a bit for munching with a Quik-Stop coke, as we talk the miles away, and it's nice to have that big ole hunka cheese in the fridge for days to come. This is one on-line marketer of "hoop cheese" though all the pre-wrapping, bubble-kept effect is not conducive to the real feel of the cheese as it's opened with that whiff of secret alchemies going on within. Nor do you get the generations-old feeling of the timelessness of the motions and scent as it's cut and crinkled toward you in the butcher paper. This one MIGHT do:

http://striplings.com/show_category.aspx?categoryid=2

And perhaps they DO have one of these:

http://www.crackerbarrel.com/about-decor.cfm?doc_id=129

My own Aunt Lou of the smalltown country store had a butcher block in the meat- market section which must have counted for one felled sequoia---It spanned four feet or so, and was probably two feet thick, with tidy little hanger-slots at the side for all those worn-to-the-bone knives, their blades slendered to kris-curves from years of use and honing on the big round stone.

And the millions of grooves sliced in the wooden top should have been a hive of food-poisoning activity from all the tons of meat cut fresh-to-order on its worn surface, but I never heard of anyone's getting sick from it. Aunt Lou's daily manning of the stiff brush and the pan of boiling Lysol water, then the hosing of the suds down the floor drain, kept the place within whatever clean-code ruled the day.

She was a careful, fastidiously clean woman, of her person and of her work, and I remember her fondly, as she'd heave that huge wheel of golden cheese from its container. She would choose the widest knife, grasp it in her wiry hand, and lean her entire hundred pounds into the effort of the blade. A great wedge would separate, and then the whisk of the paper being unrolled from the big reel and the skritch across the teeth of the cutter, like flipping a sheet off a bed.

The wrapping of the unwieldy wedge, its shape struggling with the folds, is a sound I'll always remember. For a long time, there was string for the tying---a big roll of it wound intricately on itself, hanging from a ceiling hook and run through a line of little loops across the ceiling like line on a cane pole, to keep it snarl-free. Later there was a heavy scroll of tape sitting heavy and placid as a bullfrog---such an innovative new convenience, though the string never left its little pinata-place in the ceiling.

Like wine, cheese memories grow even better with age.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rachel,

Just trying again to see if I can post a comment... Send me your address and I'll send some hoop cheese your way!

Pam

racheld said...

Oh, you darlin' girl!! e-mail is on its way.

rachel