Saturday, July 17, 2010


Way back up I-65 on the way home, there’s a wonderful place called THE SMOKEHOUSE---we stop there every trip to the coast, and I told more about it here:

Pink pig has reigned over his kingdom since we’ve been going there, and the dusty vintage STUFF would make Cracker Barrel swoon:

With one homage to the “Aw, Shucks,” expectations of such an establishment:

We nipped in to get some real, shure-enough, Purentee HOOP CHEESE, and somehow got into the entire experience whilst we were there.

We walked up to the counter, saw that the same familiar tatty box was in residence beneath that huge black guillotine, and breathed a sigh---you CAN go home to some things again; they are still as they were, despite the changes in places and lives and circumstance. Some things endure, and we were delighted to see this old favorite still flourishing.

Miss Jeannette lifted the lid:

We looked at the slumping, softening wedges, their curled-away rinds drooping over the edges of the counter, their surface oiling with warmth and time. She looked, too, and said, “Lemme get you another one---we’ll use that for the mac&cheese.”

She immediately turned to the cooler, returning with a fresh hoop, shining roundly red as a child’s balloon, and with the same heart-lifting cheer.

She set it on the low counter as we edged into the aisle to watch, and another young woman came over to help managing the heft and thickness of the big circle. The two ladies conferred, pondering the moment like two diamond-cutters appraising a life-or-death first cut.

Miss Jeannette placed the knife carefully in the very center of the red. She slowly eased the blade downward, piercing through rind, then a gentle slide through the thick cheese, then through the bottom rind. They held tight to their work, making a clean, precise incision all the way to one edge.

She made another cut beginning at the center, angled away to approximate our “about three pounds,” and sliced neatly through the meaty round. A slide of the knife beneath, small strain of the lifting-free, and the gold emerged, rising out of that ring like an opera sequence---it was dramatic and beautiful---ordinary magic in its purest form.

Onto paper and scale, and the verdict---You may not be able to see the numbers, but she cut that thing to a perfect 3.1 on the scale, prompting my breath-held deflation of “You’re GOOOD.”

Crinkly paper, doubled, taped tight for the journey, double-bagged in thin white plastic for the ride. We wandered a bit with our prize in hand, taking in the tables, with their glass-topped collections of graffiti, business cards, phone numbers, social interactions, and scraps of mysterious writings---the hieroglyphs of the transient civilization just passin’ through Interstate 65.

I’ve noticed that every day, the little counter on the right side tells of a visitor or two who has Googled HOOP CHEESE and happened in on that old post from WAY back when I started this blog.
This here’s the REAL DEAL, the Pure D HOOP CHEESE, and I hope someday you all get to taste it.


Chesapeake said...

Rachel, our local neighborhood farm market, presided over by our oldest grand's Grandmaw Judy and Daddy Wayne, has for years sold hoop cheese, or rat cheese I called it. I bought many a wedge for the younger son, father of the aforesaid grand, and I assure you I got none for myself unless it was on the way home! We don't get over to that side of the city often, but the last time we were there, the hoop was still in residence.

mustard seeds said...

We have an Amish Bakery nearby where we can get good hoop cheese. I miss the old cheese shops in town, where you could get samples of the various cheeses before you buy.