First published in The Franklin Journal
My visitors have gone home to a more southern region. It was wonderful having family and friends visit and enjoy that which Maine has to offer by way of food and frolic. My recent guests arrived here after spending two weeks sitting by the ocean and gazing at rocks. Vacations where you do nothing more than that are marvelous. As tourists, we take delight in those things many of us might otherwise, label uninteresting. Those options often include particular area foods and flavors. In this case, while enjoying New Harbor, my guests imbibed in several servings of lobster. Wandering into nearby Damariscotta and other nearby towns offered many opportunities for food purchases, including the requisite gallons of maple syrup to take home as vacation mementos. Among other foods, they found a shop that carried local, artisan cheeses. Lucky me, as they gifted me a couple of selections! Cheese may be my all-time favorite food.
With a nod to his daughter-in-law’s German heritage and her love of limburger cheese; during her first visit to our home, my father brought home Limburger cheese. Sandy has passed on, but the pleasant memory of her sharing her life with our family lingers. So does the memory of the smell of dad’s generous gesture. Limburger is the “working man’s cheese, best served on dark bread and washed down with beer” and whose strong aroma “nose” no equal. It hails from 19th Century Duchy of Limburg, an area now divided into the three countries of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Today, Germany is the sole European producer. In the United States, German-settled, Wisconsin has naturalized it. At the time of my father’s purchase, my mother banished it to the nether regions of our basement. My mother was a smart woman. I have never tasted it. As a cheese preferred by mosquitos, it remains off my cheese-trying bucket-list.
With most cheese, I have a mutual, loving relationship. I’m not talking about the stuff made with oils and has the word “cheese” waved over it to make it so. Although, I have to hand it to Kraft for marketing cheese into a household staple. It’s a food so important, each month of June, it has its own “National Cheese Day”. January hosts “National Cheese Lover’s Day”. Now don’t feel “bleu”, because you missed these days this year. You have plenty of time to prepare for next year! In the meantime, October is “National Cheese Month”! How many foods are so loved they warrant two special days and a whole month; not to mention numerous days honoring specific cheeses.
For enjoying cheese, macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches are favored options. Am I right, or am I right when I say as comfort foods, they have no equal. My family loves my mac and cheese. Move over Velveeta! Momma’s mac and cheese is made with at least three different cheeses, cream, butter, milk and pepper. Over medium heat, I melt the cheese into the milk, cream, butter and pepper and then pour it generously over al dente pasta and serve immediately. I don’t top mine with cracker or bread crumbs and bake it, nor do I add flour. This version can be more expensive, so I defray the cost by using end pieces from the deli. Sometimes, I’ll add seafood or lightly cooked vegetables. And don’t forget the ketchup!
Every community needs a grilled cheese café. The world seems nicer when shared over grilled cheese sandwiches. Move aside plain American, yellow cheese product. Welcome the taste bud, wakeup call of Gouda! In fact, make it smoky Gouda. Slather the grilling sides of your bread with real butter or mayonnaise. Don’t forget to add the dill pickle. For a change of pace, add pieces of lobster, sliced turkey, or bacon. For a breakfast delight, add thin slices of avocado, diced scallions, and sausage. Take your grilled cheese sandwich to new heights!
An alternative to the classic grilled cheese is “grilled cheese dippers”. With a rolling pin, roll sliced bread (crusts removed) into flat, ¼ inch thick squares. Place sliced cheese on each slice of bread and roll up tightly. Melt butter in a nonstick grilling pan and add rolls, seam side down. Cook over medium heat, turning often until the cheese is melty and the bread is golden. Serve as a side for tomato soup dipping.
Don’t wait for a special month or particular day! Every day is a great day to celebrate cheese! Yum!