and not content

Unripe cheese is a badness

I am a wimp. So when thirty years ago in southern France, in the wonderfully named Alpes de Haute-Provence, I bought a Banon cheese at the market, took it back to where I was staying, unwrapped it (they are bound in sweet-chestnut leaves) and discovered that it was crawling in maggots, I metaphorically shrieked and threw it in the bin. Wimp that I was, it never occurred to me that there was any other appropriate response.

What I should have done was kill all the maggots by flattening them with a knife, and spread the resulting gloop onto my piece of bread. And eat. Now, older and wiser, I shall never know whether it would have been delicious, or merely revolting?

It surely no longer exists. Did it ever? Or was I being fooled? I’m no longer sure. It’s part of distant and braver world. Cheese is about risk. If you are looking for safe protein for vegetarians, choose tofu. It is true, not all cheese needs to be aged, and not all the milk needs to be unpasteurized, but a lot more does than we think. Young, bland, cold, dull. Why do we treat cheese so badly these days?

‘Best before’? It should be translated, ‘Do not even consider starting this cheese until well after the following date.’ OK, so sometimes it really does rot – there is risk, and you must be prepared to pay for it – but how often do you open it two months after the BB date only to find – wimp that you are – you should have left it at least another six weeks.

James Stephenson

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