You know how people sometimes ask “If you had to pick, would you rather be deaf or blind?” (Which is a dumb question, because obviously you’d pick deaf. No offense, blind people. Who probably aren’t reading this anyway).
Well sometimes I ask “If you had to pick, would you rather never eat cheese again, or never eat bread?” Or “Never eat cheese or never drink alcohol?” Or “Never eat cheese or never see your loved ones again?” I’d have to say, in almost all comparisons, even booze, cheese wins.
Simple words cannot express how I feel about cheese. Oh, the excitement of seeing a gourmet cheese display at a party and how I’m willing to look like a fatty with no manners because at least a quarter of that wheel of brie was meant to be one with my belly. Or how cheese makes almost every recipe exponentially more delicious and is more often than not the answer to “Hmm, it’s okay, but something is missing in this dish, right?” If cheese wasn’t responsible for so much joy, then it wouldn’t be the word that people say in order to bring smiles to faces for photographs.
One of the most fun shopping trips of my entire life – and this includes all those shopping trips where 16-year-old YemenEm spent her entire Century 21 receptionist salary on skanky Forever 21 outfits – is when Mr. YemenEm and I went to Whole Foods for a wine and cheese party we threw at his apartment in DC in 2010. He picked out the wine, I picked out the cheese. I spend $150 of his money on Cotswold with chives, white cheddar with cranberries, Humboldt fog, chevre, and a ridiculously creamy Camembert, among others. I think Mr.YemenEm would agree: It was a very wise use of government per diem. And an equally wise use of my monthly calorie allowance.
I knew when I moved to Yemen that there is no Whole Foods, no Trader Joes, no Korean grocery story on the corner of 16th and U (which actually has a not too bad cheese selection), and that cheese isn’t a big part of Middle Eastern diets, with the exception of feta. There is a cheese plate on our room service menu and it contains cream cheese, to give you an idea of how dire the situation is. As for cheese in the grocery stores here (at least the one store I’ve been too) it’s not good, as I’ve previously posted.
One day, a week or two after I arrived, I got home from work and my salt and deliciousness blood levels (which are pretty much directly tied to LDL and blood pressure, go figure) must have been low because I was dying for cheese. I spent about an hour Googling various cheese companies to see if their products would withstand the three weeks of transit time to get to my mouth in Yemen. Our mailing address is in Dulles, Virginia. So while ordering from a company located considerably closer to Yemen, such as Dubai, seems like a good idea, it would have to go to Virginia first and by the time it arrived in this cheeseless desert, it would probably more closely resemble a McDonald’s play toy that had been nuked for 30 seconds in the microwave than anything I would want to crawl in bed with and eat.
I went to the website of Cowgirl Creamery, one of my favorite purveyors of fine artisanal cheeses and learned that they don’t ship overseas. At that point, I really just needed to hear the human voice of a fellow cheesehound so I called their number. A very nice and dairy-rich sounding woman answered. Our conversation follows.
Cheese Lady: Hi, Cowgirl Creamery, where our chairs are made of cheese and we eat them throughout the day.
YemenEm: Hi! So I just moved to Yemen and there is practically no cheese here.
Cheese lady: Oh no!
YemenEm: I KNOW! (Someone finally understands!) I am dying for some good cheese and calling to see if you guys have any cheese hard enough to survive at least two weeks in a box. Or if you have ever heard of any cheese, short of a Kraft single, that could make it here and still be delicious?
Cheese lady: No, nothing would make it that far, sadly. Your best bet it so make your own cheese. I’d go to cheesemaking.com.
YemenEm: That’s actually a very good idea. I will do that. Thank you and enjoy your cheese chair. So jeal.
So I did go to the rather hippy-dippy, but informative site of www.cheesemaking.com and soon after I had spent $80 bucks for a cheesemaking kit which promises to make me an assortment of cheeses beyond those that are easy to make at home, such as paneer and ricotta.
Five weeks later, I have no cheese kit. I’m thinking something about the bottles of amino acids and cheese starting enzymes (vegetarian, natch!) raised some red flags with one of the many people whom I imagine pokes through our mail before it gets here. I’m still holding out hope it will arrive, and perhaps the jostling from shipping will have gotten the cheese-making process started and when I open the box six months from now there will sit a stunning and pungent block of aged Parmesan. It’s probably just as well it hasn’t arrived because all I’ve seen here is “long life” milk, and I read on some blogs (yes, I read cheese blogs) that long life milk won’t produce cheese.
So this is a Stay Tuned story. But as a happy aside, I might add that our hotel hosted a fundraiser this past weekend and our hotel chef procured some fine cheeses from Dubai. I ate more than could fit in my Spanx and had to leave early to put on elastic waist pants. Such a good night. They had so much leftover cheese that one of the items on the hotel menu last night was “Proper Cheese Plate” (as opposed to the shameful cheese plate that normally is on the menu). I ordered two. One for last night, and one for tonight (photo below). Life is pretty damn good right now, I must say.
Oh, and I feel that I should tell you that that guy I made fun of last month in this post for his tiny pizza and donut idea was at the party, and so were his donuts. I don’t even like donuts all that much (and I like Medicare’s donut hole even less – badumdum!) but these donuts were amahzing. I went over to The Donut Master of Yemen and raved about his fried dough, but left out the part that I was half apologizing for making fun of him in my blog. Anyways, Donut and Tiny Pizza Guy: I haven’t tried your tiny pizzas, but if they are half as good as your donuts, you’re well on your way to dominating the Yemen food scene.
Hoping your day includes cheese,
Hmm. If the hotel chef was able to procure cheese from Dubai from this event, why can’t he do it on the regular for you?
Astute question Ricky. I will certainly be posing this very question to him. Because I’m clearly willing to pay whatever it costs.
Your blog is so funny. About the cheese, are you aware that our ancestors on the W side were cheese makers? Did you know that the father cheese-maker lived to be over 100-years old? Only one of his 6-children died under the age of 91 and that was only because he drowned. Our ancestors lived on cheese and survived to a very old age. Therefore, I’m not too worried about the adverse impact of cholesterol, ENJOY!!! Love, Aunt Linda
I didn’t know that Aunt Linda. That is great news!
OK that was hysterical! The only time I ever heard of anyone loving cheese as much as you was on Top Chef about 3 seasons ago. One of the contestants cooked with cheese constantly and said she was going to go into business making cheese after the show ended! In your honor I ate at Comparis last night with Adam and gang (all had something with cheese except for Luke who is Lactaid intolerant), and tonight I will be back there for Michelle’s birthday and no doubt we’ll be having dishes with plenty of cheese! Love Aunt Patty
ps We may just have tiny donuts for dessert!
Sent from my iPad
Mm, Comparis sounds so good, Aunt Patty. Hope you had a fun time at Michell’s birthday dinner too!
Hey Richard sent me your blog and I’m really enjoying it… but I thought I’d let you know that I’ve ordered from this company (http://www.vellacheese.com/) twice, successfully to Uganda, despite the 3-4 weeks it takes to get there, it comes fine and I’ve eaten it without getting sick! I also tried to make mozzarella (supposed to be the easiest of all cheeses to make) and even when I bought the fresher milk (not the kind that can be warm on the shelf) and it still didn’t work, it made curds… but didn’t stretch into cheese.
Hi YemenEm! I have been thinking about you a lot lately as I read your blog, and it reminds me of why we were friends in the first place: the shared love of clothes, of cooking (cheese :), being pro-couch potato, writing, etc. And now you are a world traveler too! Keep up the writing, I look forward to it. — S from WMU
Hi Em, I’m enjoying your blog so much, and I love your writing style!! All that cheese you finally got looks delicious 🙂 When you and the Mr. are back in the states, you must come visit San Francisco and I’ll drive you up to Cowgirl in Pt. Reyes. Amazing cheese and beautiful locale, it’s a little slice of heaven here on earth!!
Thanks Shana! We’re thinking of doing a West coast trip in May, so we would love to visit you (and Cowgirl) then.
Awesome! Keep me updated as you make your plans and let me know if I can help with anything!!