From the Editor
That the French are thin compared to Americans is hardly a novel observation. Many theories have been proffered: genetics, more cigarette smoking, unique characteristics of red wine, etc. Certainly it is true that portions are smaller in restaurants, and cities are set up in a way to encourage more walking. All these theories probably have an element of truth to them. We, however, would cast our ballot for a different theory.
This magazine is about specialty cheese, but more so it is about fine cheese as a portal to graceful living. We posit that a graceful home, filled with food and love and learning, is a path not only to a more pleasant life but to richer, more earnest and fulfilling days.
Amidst the national political conventions, the presidential nominees emphasize their abilities to create jobs and improve our economy and our lives. They could do far worse than to look at the specialty cheese industry as a model.
An earthquake that reduces the supply of a wonderful product makes us all a little poorer, makes all our lives less rich and reminds us how fortunate we are to live in a time when our options are vast, when we can both eat local and try the best the world has to offer.
Those of us who would like to sample specialty cheeses at fine restaurants face four big obstacles. These points were perfectly illustrated in "On a Cheese-Selecting Mission With Alain Ducasse," a recent Bruce Palling on Food column in The Wall Street Journal.
Alexander Woolcott was among the most quoted men of his time and a member, along with Dorothy Parker, of the famed Algonquin Round Table in New York City. Among his witticisms: “Everything I like is illegal, immoral or fattening.” It does sometimes feel that way — especially the fattening part — but it may not be quite true, especially when it comes to specialty cheese.
In this time of economic uncertainty and high unemployment, people are looking for growing sectors in which to find careers. There is one area in which demand will surely increase employment: People will increasingly seek high-quality food. Even if only a small percentage of the food supply shifts to an artisan model, it will take many workers to produce and market these specialty products.
At Cut 432, a steak house in Delray Beach, FL, they serve a delicious grilled cheese sandwich made with Gouda and sliced short rib on buttered thick toast, and served with heirloom tomato soup. It’s just similar enough to my mom’s Kraft-singles-on-white-bread grilled cheese with Campbell’s tomato soup to make me nostalgic; and it’s just different enough to make me feel sophisticated and grown up.
Recent articles in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal focused on raw milk cheeses — those made with unpasteurized milk. The great fear is the FDA will overreact and, instead of accommodating the great diversity of cheeses we enjoy in this country, will take an absolutist point of view, perhaps banning raw milk cheese altogether. This would be a shame.
After the holidays, we turn to resolutions for the New Year. For many of us the perennial is a pledge to lose weight. But any diet built around deprivation is fighting primal human instincts and thus bound to fail. The cultural move toward high-quality foods may point the way to a solution.
In this political season, those who see in food a yearning for a life of quality may be reminded of Oscar Wilde's critique of socialism: "It takes too many evenings." Most of us would rather spend time with our children, find joy with family and friends and savor an exquisite Cabernet and incredible Brie than listen to political debates. But there may be no conflict here. Upon contemplating the world of specialty cheeses, principles appear before us...
My wife and I are designing a new house. In our attempt to economize, we often find ourselves compromising one room's plans for another. One place we won't skimp though is on the areas that have to do with food.
Affluence doesn't imply more, but better. Cheese Connoisseur will help the reader on their journey to discover fine cheeses and gaining awaremess; that is another way of defining wealth.
Just as a generation ago, many Americans first began to consider learning more about wine, today the intellectually curious and the culinary aficionado are teaming up and creating a new class of connoisseur, the connoisseur of cheese. It is to this temperament that we dedicate this magazine: Cheese Connoisseur.