When I look at birds, I'm more interested in what they do--how they fly, where they nest, whether they pick things off the ground to eat or nibble berries on a tree--than I am in their specific names. My father, an avid birdwatcher and twitcher, despairs. "You're not assiduous in your birdwatching," he laments, after asking me whether the bird I just saw (which no one else saw because they were turned a different way) had a black eye band and a white rump.
Light is seeping fast out of the shortening days, spectacular days are so short, overcast days have twilight at noon. This is the time of year my father died, making the dark days darker. Little birds fleet over the cold landscape, escaping the hungry eyes of the buzzards who wait on the telegraph poles. The deer get more and more inventive about how to get into my vegetable garden (what about a now 7 foot high electrified fence with a proximity alarm don’t they understand - it feels like we are training them to steeplechase).
Ask anyone who will admit to knowing me: I'm an enthusiastic omnivore. But I'm also an enthusiastic host, with a lot of vegetarians on my roster. This has necessitated some off-the-cuff veggie cooking in the past, especially around ThanksG., when I'm apt to drag various castaways over to my folks' place for dinner. Mom and Dad seem to enjoy the company, but it falls to me to feed the meatless masses.
This has proven to be pretty easy, actually; the holiday is a good excuse to go over the top with rich and savory flavors, especially if you're looking for a main dish to replace turkey*. Pies work really well for this purpose.
Something big happened in 2010. It's the original kitchen table issue; the food that goes on that table. At homes and in restaurants everywhere, meals with mysterious origins are being replaced by food that has a direct to the dirt it came from pedigree. Economic handwringing, the prospect of the US population's girth expanding beyond our landmass, even give-it-a-name-so-we-can-call-it-a-fad punditry failed to put a dent in the steady drumbeat of demand for good food. Cheese, of course, is the essence of good food. No fuss, no frills, just food at its best.
Although winter is finally upon us here in Boston, I was struck with the urgent and somewhat inappropriate desire for ice cream after working the lunch shift. I felt awkward about this quest, considering the weather, and was not surprised to find myself alone in the shop. I got myself a GIANT cone (with chocolate sprinkles), and took a seat to gorge myself and watch the world go by. Here I discovered the not-so-secret role of ice cream on a November day.
5.30am. Last time I work up this early was to dance and chant with the Hari Krishnas I hung out with at university. No less of an ideology but with a little less saffron and waving incense, my incentive this morning is CHEESE.
Boots, hair nets and aprons on, we are greeted by 1,200 litres of warming milk. Dutch cheese farm Boerderij Hoekelum (www.hoekelum.nl) is producing Gouda with truffle and herbs this morning.
I'm surprised to find myself in Holland at all. As part of a small film team (www.whattookyousolong.org) traveling the world in search of camel cheese (yes, camel cheese) I don't bat an eyelid at being in Mongolia, Somalia or Uzbekistan. But the Netherlands?
From the first day we heard about Frank Smits we knew he was something special. A young dutch farmer battling government legislation and animal activists, pioneering the scientific research, inventing the machinery and importing the first camels to see Dutch soil, perhaps ever.
I thought the saying goes- "Don't name what you are going to eat". (Most) farmers who raise pigs, cows, or chickens for food wouldn't name them Daffy, Henrietta, Bessie or any other proper name for the fact that they are a food source and not a pet: a situation in which emotional attachments are difficult (not to offend any vegetarians or pet cow owners). Cheese seems to break this rule. Some will argue that cheese is a living thing (or a slowly dying thing) and therefore one must care for it from inoculation through maturation- correct? With names like Pierre Robert, Dafne, Rupert, or Moses I wonder how far these emotional attachments go with the cheese and its 'maker'.
I'd like to introduce Mary Quicke, of Quickes Traditional Farmhouse Cheeses in the UK. She's been generous enough to share the beautifully-written updates she sends from Devon, where her family has farmed for more than 450 years. —Will
MARY'S DAIRY DIARY - NOVEMBER 2010
November has dark evenings when we can still remember the light ones, leaves are whirling off the trees when we can remember the green of summer, and chilly when the wreckage of summer lies broken all around.
Remember when you were a kid, and how excited you were to find out you got to go to the zoo? Remember how thrilling it was to get to see all of those wild and sometimes scary, sometimes cute animals you had only read about in books? Well, that’s exactly how I felt as I spent the last 6 weeks interning at Jasper Hill Farm and Cellars in Greensboro, VT.
See, I’m a microbiologist, and for me, those wild and unseen animals are the microbes I’ve spent so many years studying.