Monday, December 17, 2007

Raw cheese

Some of the tastiest things to eat were created by our ancestors to get them through the winter, like cheese and air-dried ham (not of course that I eat the ham, what with being a veggie and all). We eat them now because we've grown accustomed to the taste, and not because we need to store huge quantities of milk or whatever in some non-rotting form, which we can pick at during the long winter nights while wolves prowl around our caves. But think about what is going on here: we take the milk of another mammal, intended for its young, and then ferment it with all sorts of bacteria. Then that whole fermentation is plunged down the throat, into the innermost parts of our bodies. Taras Grescoe, in a book that deserves more attention, The Devil's Picnic, is good on how the process of eating is the closest and riskiest regular interaction our bodies have with the rest of the world.

I was thinking Grescoe's book today while I bought some Comte cheese in Benton Brothers in Kerrisdale, Vancouver. It's hard to find Comte here, although cave-aged Gruyere can sometimes stand in. While I was standing in line, an elderly lady asked what unpasteurised cheeses were available. That made my day---someone who still cares enough and who still, after all the scares, decides to pick unpasteurised. I have to admit to feeling a bit of a weakling asking just for Comte. But it was for a souffle, recipe from France The Beautiful, recipes written by The Scotto Sisters...whose name is too good to be true, but there they are, all three of them, smiling out of the back cover. Here's the recipe: melt 40g of butter in a saucepan, then add 40g plain flour. Stir for a minute over low heat. Slowly pour in 250ml of boiling milk, stirring all the time. Cook for 5 minutes, and it will turn the consistency of heavy cream. Take off the heat. Whisk in three egg yolks, one at a time. Blend in 1 tablespoon of double cream, and salt pepper and a little grated nutmeg. Next, whisk four egg whites, then fold in the egg mixture. Pour into a buttered souffle dish. Bake for 30 mins at 215C (425F). Of course, serve right away!

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