Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Family Cheese Wheel

One of the things I share with my family is a love of food.  We love appetizers.  We love desserts.  We love snacks.  And we definitely love cheese.

When we’re together, it is not rare for us to talk about what to have for lunch while we were eating breakfast.

Seriously.  The Radcliffes love food.

I think I was ten when I learned how to make salad dressing from scratch.   My mother and I can have thirty minute conversations about what we both had for dinner the day before and how we prepared it.  My father built a computer program to plan cooking on Thanksgiving day – all he had to do was enter the weight of the turkey and out came the schedule.  My brother and his wife host the best dinner parties in Pennsylvania and they do it like most people do laundry – weekly.

The Radcliffes also love cooking.

This past weekend, I spent some time visiting with relatives I hadn’t seen in years.  I admit, I was nervous about seeing the clan.  Even though I have come to love being single, these kinds of gatherings can still bring out the self-conscious divorced girl in me.

I had forgotten, however, that the Radcliffes (ok, well actually the Bradstocks) really love picnics.

As soon as I rounded the corner of Great Aunt Nellie’s yard, memories of summer picnics with this extended family came flooding back. The food was always simple and delicious.  There was never much to do but sit around and talk but we didn’t care.  This weekend was no different.  It didn’t take long before the nerves went away and we were telling old stories and making new memories.

Of course my favorite bonding moment of the entire trip was when my cousin (once removed!) and her husband and I waxed poetic about our love of cheese.   My mother had explained my August resolution.  Laurie started listing all of the cheeses she and her husband adore and looking wistfully into the distance.  Last year, they gave and received cheese-of-the month from iGourmet (please, PLEASE someone, buy this for me).  Ah yes, I thought.  We are kindred spirits.

Family is important to me, but I’ve always believed you make your family more than you inherit it.  That’s what I’ve done with my life – gathering friends  around me.  Still, these people are my family tree – my family cheese wheel if you will – and I can’t deny a special connection.  I don’t think it has anything to do with biology – I think it’s history.

At the end of the weekend, I went with my parents to see my grandparents’ graves.  I had forgotten that this spot was where many of my relatives are buried, some who died before I was born.  Why were those graves more meaningful to me than others?  Why were any of them meaningful to me at all? I don’t think it was the graves, to be honest.  I think, instead, it was the connection I was witnessing – my father to his parents, to his cousin lost far too young, to his uncles and aunts – and my mother (the in-law) to this family she has known and loved for most of her life.

Oddly I know that if I needed help, many of this clan would offer it, even though they see me rarely and we live far apart.  I hope they know I would offer it too.  We are connected.  I know that not everyone has this and I’m grateful for it, and for the opportunity to feel it so strongly again after too many years.

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Cheese vs. Alcohol

This morning, a friend asked me if I miss cheese more than I miss beer.  It was not difficult for me to answer – YES!  I miss cheese more!

(In case you forgot, I gave up all alcohol this February.)

First of all, the act of abstaining from alcohol was just a lot simpler.  You just don’t order a drink.

But cheese, my friends, is EVERYWHERE.  It’s hard to avoid it even when you want to (and I use the term ‘want’ loosely here).  Foods that don’t even need cheese have cheese in them.  The less time you have, the more likely it is that cheese will be included in your meal.  And when you’re not cooking for yourself, the non-cheese options are often even less healthy.  I have actually found myself ordering fried food instead of the salad that comes with cheese.  Seriously.

After February, I realized that being more intentional about alcohol was important to me.  Just because I’m out with friends doesn’t mean I need to have a drink too.  Just because I’m on my porch and it’s hot out, doesn’t mean I need to have a gin and tonic (ok.  It kind of does.  But let’s pretend it doesn’t).

Similarly, I am finding that I need to be more intentional about my cheese intake.  I don’t miss cheese in my deli sandwich.  I don’t miss cheese cubes at a reception.  I do, however, miss the opportunity to order cantaloupe gazpacho with goat cheese when I am out to dinner in a new city.  I miss tomatoes at their peak with fresh mozzarella and goat cheese.  I miss fennel cranberry bread with locally made Camembert from our grower’s market.  I know that I can’t go back to eating cheese in September without some guidelines for myself.  “Eat less cheese” is just too broad and in a few short months (weeks?) I’ll be back to my old habits.

Instead, I think I’ll focus on high quality cheese moments – the opportunity to try a really good cheese, or a favorite dish – should not be missed.  But it also shouldn’t be something I do without thinking.  Late night cheese snacking, no-no.  Tipsy cheese appetizers, no-no.  Cooking and eating six ounces of feta while I do it, no-no.  But a cheese course?  Cheese fondue?  Macaroni and Cheese on a cold winter night?  Hell, yea.  I can’t wait.

 

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Cheese, cheese, everywhere…and not a cube to eat.

First, I gave the last of my feta (my favorite, Mandros feta) to my roommate.

Then, I had to eat Buffalo Wings with RANCH dressing.

Next, I could not put cheddar cheese on my friend’s Birthday Chili.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to carve breakfast out of an almost empty pantry, I only realized after the fact that my  mother’s pesto (delicious, thank’s mom) has Parmesan cheese in it.  Damn it!

Still, I am eight days in, and so far I have mostly been winning my stand-off with cheese.   OH THE POWER.

I have noticed several things:

* It is VERY hard to eat out without eating cheese.  Most restaurants put cheese on EVERYTHING.  Seriously.  Even the vegetables seem to have cheese.

* Sometimes, even when you ask for a sandwich without cheese, you get it WITH cheese and don’t realize it until you’ve eaten 2/3 of the sandwich.  If you don’t even NOTICE the cheese, then why is it there?  Adding calories and fat to my otherwise lovely sandwich?  WTF people?

* When you cook for yourself it is EASY to not use cheese.  But you may still WANT to use cheese.   A LOT.

Friends and coworkers honestly CAN NOT believe this resolution.  They just don’t understand it.  I’m not sure I do either.

 

 

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The Cheese Stands Alone

First, I’d like to thank Z-Tejas in Austin, TX for giving me the gift of Five Cheese Macaroni and Achiote Chicken (with toasted bacon gratin) for my “Goodbye to Cheese” meal.

Second, I’d like to remind my readers that even though I am walking away from cheese for a month, I can still (and will still) eat ice cream, yogurt, milk, cream, whipped cream, clotted cream, and Gelato.  I am unlikely to develop a severe allergy to dairy this month, and I am most certainly going to eat cheese again.  For example, I will be eating cheese on September 1st.  I appreciate your concern for my sanity, health, and happiness, but I am not changing my mind.

Third, I’d like to thank corn and tomatoes (specifically from Ards and the Jesus-Tomato guy) for your assistance in the next thirty-one days.

I can do it.  I know I can.

 

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Filed under Food, Resolutions, The Meaning of Life