Today I researched raw cheeses. The first time I ever heard of such a thing was when I read a food article in Vogue when I was a teenager. When I have been out of the country, the cheese was an entirely different food experience with textures and flavors never experienced at home. In fact it is illegal to experience these sensations at home. Cheese in the United States since the 1940’s must be pasteurized, and if it’s not pasteurized, it must be aged for a minimum of 60 days in order to kill off the bacteria that could make us sick but probably won’t. So all the luscious raw young cheeses that exist elsewhere must remain an exotic fantasy. I was fantasizing about Turkish cheese (beyaz penir) at the fancy grocery store, and staring at blocks of feta sitting in their cloudy baths, one French, on Bulgarian, one Greek. I tried the french one, which had a lovely flavor, but it was dense, crumbly, and far too serious tasting. I squished the farmers cheeses and fresh mozzarellas in their plastic wrapping and wished for a taste of this Turkish delight in my memory. Not that there is one specific type I know of. The only thing I know is that it is solid enough to be in a cube that can be sliced with a plastic knife, is moist, and springy and has a varying degree of salt. It also tastes like a million bucks. The guy at the cheese counter recommended a fresh cheese they make there, sold in little plastic containers. Its called Menouri, and is a soft Greek-style cheese made from sheep or goat whey. (The liquid byproduct of producing cheese from goat or sheep milk, the first product being the curds). This cheese has been able to sort of satisfy my craving. It is soft, salted, moist, sliceable, with a slight crumble like cheesecake. It’ll have to do. I hear there are places in New York that one can obtain raw, young cheeses, but it might get a little shady. The other options are to drive north, drive south, know a guy, or to keep the fantasy in frequent rotation.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
At 12.30am I was walking home. The end of Manhattan avenue was filled with the smell of baking bread. I slowed down to savor it and to look at the building. I’m not sure which side is the front because I’ve walked down the other block and it looks the same, a red and white mosaic sign above the door that says New Warsaw Bakery. I’ve noticed the bread in the many local bakeries. I like the way of life that includes buying one’s bread everyday. As I stand under the sign, I look down and there is an open door with a tall rack in front of it, and I can see a huge oven, many feet wide, and a conveyor that extends to the other end of the building. The conveyor ascends away from me and on on it are a couple hundred shining new oval loaves. There is an old man sitting below the belt far in the back and he sees me and gets up. I wasn’t sure if he was coming over, but I continued to stand and he appeared with a greeting and slid the rack away. I said, “it smells good here”. “Oh it must be me”, he smiled. I asked if I could buy one, and he said “now? ok, two dollars”. He reaches over to the belt and puts a gleaming loaf in a big brown paper sack like a grocery bag. As I walk home I tear off little bits of it to eat. The crust is salty and the inside is hot and fluffy. The bread is much bigger than I expected and as I carry it on my hip, it feels like a warm, heavy, living being.