Thursday, 1 August 2013

For Emile Zola (1840 - 1902),

“They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the marolles and the limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every now and then, however, a slight whiff, a flute-like note, came from the parmesan, while the bries came into play with their soft, musty smell, the gentle sound, so to speak, of a damp tambourine. The livarot launched into an overwhelming reprise, and the géromé kept up the symphony with a sustained high note.”
   -- The Belly of Paris

The above excerpt of musical cheeses is well-known as Zola's "Cheese Symphony." There are a couple of reasons why that troubles me. 

Firstly, "cheese symphony" sounds like a polite way of describing someone's digestive discomfort after they've indulged in a little too much gouda.

Secondly, there are not nearly enough cheeses here. To achieve an entire symphony of smells, you'd need a whole orchestra of cheese. Where are the keyboards, the harps, the humble triangle? Can't we add an emmental, a sharp cheddar, perhaps a little something smoked?

I'm happy to help in the mission of expanding Zola's cheese symphony. In fact, with an anniversary to celebrate, a food expo in town, and a discount cheese voucher burning a hole in my pocket, I'm more than willing to set up a romantic and comprehensive olfactory feast.

All in service of literature.
But I'll also go a little further than that. Cheese on its own is great. But cheese with honey is pure pleasure. Add a few cheeseboard extras like marinated olives and figs, and the taste combinations are endless.

That's why today's post contains no recipe, but a few ideas on cheeseboard combinations. Taste, tweak, experiment, and enjoy!

By the time I post pictures, I've already eaten the food. That sucks right now.

Cheeseboard Pairings

Cheddar: A drizzle of beechwood honey with a thin slice of cheddar, on a chunky oat cracker. Hell yes. 

Parmesan: A sharp, crumbling parmigiano-reggiano* pairs beautifully with fruit flavours. I had some merlot jelly in the fridge (as you do), but fresh blackberries or berry jams also work well. In fact, fresh warm bread with parmesan and blackberries is my splurgy lunch of choice.

Camembert: (or brie for that matter.) A drizzle of NZ Kamahi honey makes soft cheeses taste even better than they do on their own. And that's saying something.

Emmental: Traditionally served with cold meats or grilled over savoury dishes, but also works really well with marinated figs.

Smoked cheeses: To be honest, I like smoky flavours on their own. Smoked brinza is its own cheese symphony. In a non-gassy sort of way.

Extras: Good quality crackers make a huge difference. I like a couple of choices: something dense and meaty, and something light and wafery. Anything salted is kind of superfluous when you're adding cheese.

Bread and jam get a major facelift.
A cheese-plus board like this is great for romantic occasions, and this one got gobbled up on an anniversary. When you take into consideration the range of little pleasures you're consuming, it's enough to form a light dinner.

Bon appetit, and praise cheeses!

*Parmesan is the generic term, whereas Parmigiano-reggiano is the official term for cheeses from that region. It's like how anything made outside the Champagne region has to be called sparkling wine. They're basically the same thing.

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