(Originally published as a Spoonfed column in the Valley Citizen on October 3, 2012)
Last week, I caught an AP story accompanied by a photo in the Jackson Hole Daily that held my attention for days. I cut it out and placed it under a magnet so that I could simply stare at it, or glance at it as I walked by. The AP feed was being used as a kind of porn by me. And that is really okay, since what I am talking about here is a story on cheese.
Three blocks of Wisconsin cheddar were recently discovered in the back of a market, aged 28, 34 and 40 years old. Some foodie freak bought the lot of it and is going to sell it for $10 an ounce. Here is a quote regarding said cheese, “If you get a piece close to the outside, it’s all crystallization, so it’s crunchy like Corn Flakes. As you get closer to the interior, it’s creamier and overwhelmingly sharp.”
Each and every time I read this story or gander at the photo of the 28-year-old block of cheese, my salivary glands start to work. My mouth is watering while the word “crystallization” is dissected in my brain. Oh, I love the crystals that form in the block on a good piece of aged cheese. This running commentary is truly out of my own control. When they say overwhelmingly sharp, that’s gotta be sharper than Vermont white cheddar? Right? Right?
Hello, my name is Jenn Rein and I am a cheese addict. Just like any addict (my expertise is based on the sheer number of addicts in my own family), I have chased the object of my desire for a good portion of my life. I once gained fifteen pounds during a post break-up span of time in which I ate brie and French bread every night for dinner. For a month. Okay, maybe a little bit longer than a month.
And taking it back even further, I remember trying to sneak cheese from my grandmother’s basement refrigerator. I was small. Like, four-years-old small. The thing about that refrigerator was that you could feel the electric current when you touched the steel handle. But there I was; a four-year-old rat in a science experiment. The handle didn’t put me off. I still went for bites from the block of cheddar that she hid from us kids, despite the obstacle of electric shock.
During my eight year marriage to Tim, I have rarely shared what I chose to put in the “meat and cheese” bin in our fridge. He made it easy, as he does not dig on goat cheese or blue, and will scrunch his nose up if the smell goes beyond your average cheddar. And the best thing about that, really, is that I can simply eat it straight from the container or block without ever really putting a portion say, on a plate, like a civilized person.
I believe my addiction hit its full peak during the time that I worked at a specialty wine shop that served artisan cheese. Late at night, after working a very long day, I would hold a wine glass in my hand and attack a piece of Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog like it was the answer to all of my prayers. No need to cut it up. No need to finger slices into my mouth. Just take the fork and eat the cheese, Jenn, and all will be well.
Recently, I found out that all was not so well. As a matter of fact, a real medical professional recommended that I go on a low fat diet due to my frequent intake of cheese. He asked me, “How much fat do you think is in your diet?” I answered, “Well if I had not married Tim, I would have married a large block of cheese.” (food porn scenario in my head: lying next to this large block in my king sized bed and nibbling off of it all night long) The doctor didn’t find that too amusing. He had a very serious look on his face. One which I am sure he gets paid for. After deciding to heed his warning, I completely eliminated dairy from my diet.
Initially, this grave action was a big worry for me. I felt that there was no way that I could stop eating cheese. I decided to stop, but fully expected failure. I kept thinking about what was left in the fridge at home. What cheeses needed to be finished off? Could I get to them before Tim decided to “help” me by throwing them away? This is the mind of an addict at work, people.
That was seven weeks ago. Today, I don’t eat cheese. My quitting plan worked, and I am still amazed that I am more or less cheese free. When I say “more or less”, that means that three weeks ago I had a vegetable tart at a very nice restaurant that was topped with small chunks of goat cheese. I ate the cheese and felt no guilt. I ate it the way it was supposed to be eaten – as an added flavor. Not for instance, as a main course accompanied by great quantities of wine (I also stopped drinking, but that is a whole separate column). I can say that those days are over and hold my head high. And my head is a little lighter to hold. As a side effect to this massive dietary change, I have lost fifteen pounds (fifteen here, fifteen there – no biggy).
Even in this human skin, of which we are all saddled with, I was able to change. Change is hard and is no small task when you have to embrace it. I feel the struggle still, as I gaze at the cheese porn that is mounted in my kitchen under a magnet. It shall not be removed.