A Passion For Good

Nikolai Borisov, the proprietor of three Italian restaurants in Moscow, has been forced to take Gorgonzola cheese and Parma ham off his menus after President Vladimir Putin banned some food imports in August.

“You can make pizza using Russian cheese, but it won’t taste anything like Italian food,” said Borisov, 34…

Borisov, who runs Kvartira 44, Mart and Mercato restaurants in Moscow, said he “panicked” when he first heard about the food ban and quickly bought non-perishable food like Parma ham, Italian flour, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives. The increased demand pushed up prices and supplies grew scarce, he said.

“The trouble will likely start after New Year’s when suppliers run out of stock and as people consume more meat during winter,” he said. “We have to hold on. What else can we do?”
— Ksenia Galouchko writing from Moscow for Bloomberg

There is so much we take for granted. But the news out of Russia illustrates how small things can enrich our lives. It hardly seems like much of a hardship to go without some specialty food products from a few countries. After all, Russia does make cheese and they can still buy from Israel and other countries not covered by the Russian law.

Yet it is a loss. Not just of a single product but a whole cuisine. As the restaurant owner explains, without Italian cheese, it does not taste like Italian food.

As we walk through good food stores, it might be wise to pause for a moment and look around. In a sense, we stand at the very pinnacle of human civilization. The assortment surrounding us is a symbol of an ability, unprecedented in human history, to gather the most extraordinary of tastes and flavors from the four corners of the globe – and all at a price within reach of most Americans.

This issue contains a great piece, Slave to the Curd, which is a first-person account of how a woman’s love for runny French cheese turned her into an amateur — but dedicated — cheesemaker. It is the story of how our passions drive us — of the lengths people will go to in order to live the experiences that add joy to life.

That is really what CHEESE CONNOISSEUR is all about, a guidebook of sorts, showing how a passion for specialty cheese can translate so easily into a passion for good living.