In a future post, I will tell about building a makeshift cheese press with my son this month at the holiday Craft Day, an inspiring Boston area tradition organized each year by Carolyn Mugar (who is executive director of Farm Aid). For more than a year, I had promised myself not to take up more arduous hard cheese making as a new hobby until I submitted a manuscript for my food policy book, but that goal was completed this fall. So this weekend, armed with the new press, I claimed my reward and began my first attempt at cheddar.
For entertainment during the waiting periods for that project last night, I sat, with a beer in hand, reading the relevant sections of Harold McGee's classic, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. You will think I was tipsy if I tell you it felt like grasping a thin and nearly invisible thread connecting my kitchen to 5,000 years of kitchens inhabited by inventive cheese makers (and brewers) responsible for a truly remarkable group of technologies using living microorganisms to convert perishable foods into shelf-stable treasures. McGee writes:
Cheese is one of the great achievements of humankind. Not any cheese in particular, but cheese in its astonishing multiplicity....
Minor Update 12/13/2012: According to an NPR story by Adam Cole and Helen Thompson today, based on an article from Nature, the thread is even longer, connecting 7,000 years of kitchens!