When tasting wines or judging cheeses, it is prudent to spit. A swirl of the glass, a deep slow sniff, a quick sip, will provide a seasoned wine taster with sufficient information to judge a wine’s color, bouquet and flavor. Similarly, an experienced cheese judge can detect even a subtle flaw with just a whiff and a few mincing bites. Swallowing is unnecessary, and can lead, with wine, to impaired judgment, and with cheese, to impaired gastrointestinal function.
With practice and proper technique it is possible to spit wine with dignity, even elegance. Tuck long hair behind the ear, press ties or necklaces firmly to the chest, tilt head forward and slightly to the side, and in a single confident jet, spit. A successful spit will pierce the surface of the spittoon, or crachoir, with hardly a splash, like an Olympic diver. Even the crachoir itself is often an attractive, collectible objet d’art of ornately painted porcelain, fine crystal or filagreed silver.
It is not possible to spit cheese with dignity or elegance. Cheese spit is a viscous, lumpy string. Ballistic trajectory is difficult to predict or control. Cartoon spitting noises—ptooey, ftang, etc.—are unavoidable. Springbacks are common, and manual retrieval is often required. And a cheese spittoon is just a chicken bucket full of cheese spit.
(note madcap dairy scientists in upper right corner)
9 January 1998 Biba, Boston
Wine: Trimbach Pinot Gris
Appetizer: Tuna Sushi with Pumpkin Dumplings
Appetizer: Stracchino Pizza
Wine: Etude Pinot Noir
Entrée: Venison with roasted onions, carrots
Dessert: Warm Chocolate Cake
Cognac: A. de Fussigny Heritage
Comment: Ordered venison, rare, to establish manliness. Failed to record what she had. Established that we both drove 1986 Volvo 240 Wagons. Pre-date sedative: Lagavulin, 16 years old, served neat.
14 January 1998 My Apartment, then The Blue Room, Cambridge
Wine: Louis Roederer Champagne
Cheese: Soumaintrain Fermier, with dried cherries.
Beer: Fraoch Heather Ale
Appetizer: Scallops in Hoisin
Appetizer: Seared Mackerel Tail
Appetizer: Salmon Cakes
Comment: No recollection of this date. Statute of Limitations on illegally imported Soumaintrain Fermier now expired.
16 January 1998 Chez Henri, then Chez Moi, Cambridge
Dessert: Hot Chocolate
Recipe: 1 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ vanilla bean
6 heaping teaspoons Valrhona cocoa powder
6 teaspoons sugar.
Comment: Accompanied by “box of cookies from Provence.” Date shortened by resultant coma.
20 January 1998 Les Zygomates, Boston
Wine: Veuve-Cliquot Champagne
Appetizer: Lobster Bisque
Appetizer: Cod Cheeks
Entrée: Veal Medallions in Port Sauce
Entrée: Seared Scallops with Foie Gras Butter
Wine: Domaine Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée Les Chaumes 1992
Comment: Still paying off the wine.
22 January 1998 Her Apartment, Norwell
Entrée: Alaskan King Crab, Red Bliss potatoes
Beer: Wild Goose
Dessert: Mixed berries and whipped cream
Wine: Nino Franco Prosecco
Comment: Established she does not like beer. Notes indicate a “shitload” of butter on the potatoes. Notes also indicate that no bowls, utensils or glassware were used in the service of berries and cream or Prosecco.
24 January 1998 Chez Henri, Cambridge (Her 28th Birthday)
Wine: Seigneurie de Posanges Bourgogne
Wine: Saracco Moscato d’Asti
Comment: No recollection of birthday present. But must have given her one, right? Sweetie?
25 January 1998 My Apartment, Cambridge (Super Bowl Sunday)
Entrée: My famous Tuna Spinach Curry, rice
Comment: Established that she doesn’t care for football. Established her habit of raising important life questions during critical plays, including “shall we have kids,” “should I convert,” and others. Established that she doesn’t care for my famous Tuna Spinach Curry. Date marks last time I made Tuna Spinach Curry. Denver won, Elway’s first.
Each Chanukah from 1968 to 1973 I requested a cheese and meat gift basket from the Sears Catalog. I do not recall the precise model.
Though my taste at this stage was poor, my demonstrated early interest in cheese and meat gift boxes is a clear antecedent of my later professional interest in cheese and meat gift boxes, and will be useful to future scholars and biographers.
Note each of my requests was denied. I received instead electric trains, a telescope, a box of hats, Dr. Denton’s and a Ted Williams football.
If you will permit me, I will blog.
I will write about food, mostly.
I will write about cheese, and about cheesemakers and the farms and dairies where cheeses are made.
I will write about wine, though mostly of its relationship to cheese. I will collaborate with my friend Cat Silirie on a regular segment that we’ll call, “This Cheese, This Wine.”
Once, for exactly a year, I wrote in a notebook everything that I ate. Everything. I won’t do that again. It was a horrible burden.
I will write about restaurants where they inspire me. I will praise and describe the ones I like and ignore the ones I don’t.
John is tall and handsome in a rugged, weathered, bushy eye-browed sort of way, like a slim Lee Marvin in a hairnet. He has a curmudgeonly reputation among the Zingerman’s staff. Paul Saginaw refers to him alternately as Curly Loomis (presumably an ironic Three Stooges reference) or Smiley Loomis (again, presumed irony). I do not notice. Or perhaps my own vaunted curmudgeonliness blinds me to this trait in others. I find him affable, passionate about his craft and full of humorous anecdotes. And much less likely to shoot you than Lee Marvin.
I-57 from Chicago to Champaign is mostly straight and very flat. The land opens not far from the city into vast fields of soybean and corn. Signs along the highway lobby for ethanol, like Burma-Shave billboards, phrase by phrase. Grain elevators in the distance look as tall as the Sears tower.
Once this was tall grass prairie, a sea of deeply rooted grasses and wildflowers—big and little bluestem, indian grass and prairie dropseed, blackeyed susans, echinacea and prairie gentian among hundreds. But prairie is rare now. In 1837, in the town of Grand Decatur, Illinois, John Deere invented the self-scouring, steel-bladed plow that broke through the tough prairie sod and plowed it under.
Michael Lee and Emily Sunderman make goat cheese in West Cornwall, on land carved from Emily’s parents’ farm. Their farmhouse, which my wife described as chartreuse and mocha, is smart and modern. “We were going for dark celery”, Michael told us, “the neighbors find it startling against the winter snow.” Inside it seems more Manhattan loft than Vermont farmstead, with walls of books, clean wood floors and a baby grand.
Michael was turning cheeses in the cellar when we arrived.