Last month wasn't a very productive reading month for me. But we headed out of town earlier this month for a back-to-school celebration camping trip and I was determined to read a book and relax. I had just acquired Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family by Hannah Howard* and it was a breeze to read.
Hannah Howard is a writer and food expert. This is her second memoir and I will definitely be looking up the first soon! Plenty is a timely memoir in which she poignantly details being pregnant and giving birth amidst this on-going COVID pandemic. Among many things, she writes about cheese. Glorious, beautiful cheese.
"The cheese was perfect. It oozed out of its snow-white skin, leaving a puddle on the cutting board. It tasted of sweet milk and buttered mushrooms and joy."
"I wanted to taste everything and learn everything about what I was tasting, the person who made that cheese, their traditions, their dreams. I was also afraid of my own appetites and learned to loathe my body in a world that taught me that there was only one punishingly narrow way for a young woman to look. My love for food was profound and profoundly complicated."
And, caseophile that I am, took notes when Howard recounted a trip to visit Allison of Vermont Creamery. "The next day, we set off for Vermont Creamery. Everyone in our group already knew Allison, the founder and owner—along with her business partner, Bob Reese, who handled the money and organizational side of things. As for Allison, she was a cheese goddess, one of my cheese heroes, and it was the first time I was going to meet her in real life. All the nerves I felt were quickly eased when I was welcomed by her warm, genuine presence, a small woman wearing shorts, with cropped blonde hair and a knowing smile."
She narrates, "This was the early 1980s, and most Americans didn’t even know goat cheese was a thing. Greenmarkets were just getting started in New York City. But Allison had a conviction that goat cheese was special, delicious, and even essential. If people would try it, they might understand. For a few months, Allison worked on a goat farm in western New Jersey called the Goat Works, but it wasn’t a particularly impressive operation. They made cheese that was 'mostly bland, and mostly inedible'."
So, Allison launched her business after she made a batch of cheese in her skin. "At first, no one really knew what to make of the product. 'Nobody made goat cheese and Vermonters didn’t eat goat cheese,' said Allison. They spent a lot of time trying to sell at farmers’ markets, but the reception was lukewarm at best. Goat cheese wasn’t on anyone’s shopping list, or even on their radar. ...As Americans came to love artisanal cheese, Vermont Creamery was at the heart of the whole movement. Their butter and cheese have won more than one hundred awards nationally and internationally. Chefs like Éric Ripert of Le Bernardin, Molly Hanson of Grill 23, and Dan Barber of Blue Hill cooked with and celebrated their cheeses."
I had had cheese from Vermont Creamery, but when I saw their Bonne Bouche as Whole Foods this week, I pick up a round. Bonne Bouche means 'good mouth(ful)' in French and is their ash-ripened goat cheese. It's soft, creamy, and robust in flavor.
I will definitely be looking for more of their cheesy goodness the next time I'm at the store.
She doesn't just write about cheese though, and every description of a meal made my mouth water.
"We ordered almost everything on the menu: smoked beets made spicy with horseradish and creamy with egg yolk, tiny mussels with a garlicky mayonnaise, mackerel with mustard and some kind of roe. The waiter urged us to double up on some dishes for the table, so we did, and still we all laughed when the food arrived on small plates, looking like delicate play food. The mussels were fantastic, briny and sweet, but reaching into the small pot, we each got only one."
*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.
Click to see what everyone else read in August 2021: here.