A fire broke out in one of our shop’s cheese cases Friday night. You did not hear about it as, thankfully, the electrical fire was confined to a “chase” – a steel chamber with electrical wires running through it. Blackened, burnt and sparking, the smoldering wires stopped burning there. That’s the good news as compared to a much worse potential.
As a photojournalist (in a prior life), I have seen many fires. Worse, if you will: buildings, homes, businesses, personal property and yes, people burned. There are smells that, once endured, are never forgotten. Burned fiberglass insulation is far more noxious than any washed rind cheese that I have encountered. Thankfully, our fire resulted in none of that.
Without loosing the cooler or building to fire, there was still a loss. Cheeses. The electrical arcing cut off power to the compressor, but not the lights (which generate heat). Overnight, when this happened, the temperatures in the case climbed to the point that the cheeses in the case were compromised.
I have tried to see the bigger picture in this unfortunate event as, at this time of year, there is a general sense of good news emerging. Historical examples abound. Starting with Greek mythology, there is Princess Persephone. Persephone, who this time of year, was freed from the underground to make her annual return to the Earth. The flowering of the meadows and the arrival of spring mark this moment in mythology. More poignant – this past weekend celebrated the miracle of Easter and the celebration of Passover to start in less than 30 days.
In each of these circumstances there is a sense of triumph over adversity. If you have worked on a dairy farm, you know well the hard work, rewards and losses that go with this time of year. Collectively, we can celebrate the delight of watching prancing baby goats (in sweaters) and mourn the stillborn. It’s the reality of dairying – it takes a persistent faith.
Looking on the bright side of things, it’s a time of year to recognize the bounty of beautiful cheeses before us. That, and to recognize the path, often difficult, that led us here. Sometimes, like now as I enjoy tea, toast and a good cheese while I write this, it comes together deliciously.
REWARDED WITH CHEESE
The spring rewards us with fresh and distinct cheeses. Seek out a soft pecorino and discover sheep’s milk with a mild and creamy, almost spreadable side. Chevre this time of year is better than any Easter candy (call me biased). Tomme de Savoie, the nutty and woodsy round of cheese from France, is a taste reminiscent of a spring walk in the woods. The aromas of bark and forest floor come through in the cheese. Triple cream cheeses at this time of year are oozing with so much temptation it’s hard to pick just one to highlight. The buttery and mushroom character of Mt. Alice (made in a camembert style) and the bloomy rind Kunik with an eyelid fluttering blissful blend of goat and cow’s milk are each close to my heart.