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Eating royalty Blue cheese

Zubin D’Souza

Every week, I pull out my dictionary, flip it open to a random page and then let my finger hover over the page while I look away and then with one swift motion, I stab at a non-predetermined spot. The word that appears under my finger (which is now already painful and starting to swell because I keep forgetting to remind myself that I should go slowly on the ferocity of the stabbing finger) is the word I learn.

I have only recently graduated from my little picture dictionary filled with four letter words and lots of cute little reference pictures like stuffed toys and cars and moved on to this massive book which requires me to go to the gym only to enable me to move it to the table where I can do my flipping and stabbing.

Well, I went through the motions and skimmed through the pages in my usual manner and the word that lay right beneath my rapidly discolouring digit was ‘turophile’.

Now here was an interesting word and something that I could really sink my teeth into! This fancy word actually means cheese lover. The big massive copy of ‘Dictionary of Big Words for Ignorant Chefs’ that I was referring to had a rambling description but the summation was just this – ‘lover of cheese’.

I have found it rather easy to love cheese but there are times that I dither. I do not love all kinds of cheese. I would try them once for sure because I am a chef and am totally passionate about everything that a human being can eat but I do feel a certain apprehension when I try certain types of cheese.

The tastes are normally fantastic and the sights very often are. There are exceptions of course like the Italian Casu marzu cheese that teems with maggots and the French Vieux Boulogne that is considered the smelliest cheese in the world but those are stories for another day.

What really fascinates me in my little turophile world and repels me at the same time is a nice big wedge of blue cheese.

My first encounter with Gorgonzola (a name of a blue veined cheese and not a challenger to Godzilla) was quite literally a love at first bite. The sharp flavour coupled with the inherent saltiness and I was hooked. I wanted to know more about this cheese and sample as many varieties as I possibly could.

Many people are put off by the strong flavour and aroma that accompanies this cheese. Therein lies the beauty because when harnessed right, the flavours are to die for.

The art of creating cheese is thought to be at least six-thousand-years-old with the oldest samples of cheese in existence which were found in an ancient Egyptian tomb were around four-thousand-years-old.

Somewhere in the 9th century AD, some monks has kept some blocks of cheese to air and dry in some caves and when they returned (not immediately of course but after a convenient interval of time) they realised that the cheese was covered with mold which it probably acquired from the naturally occurring organisms in the spot.

I am sure that there would have been many who were intending to throw out the cheese but somewhere, a brave soul who probably cared more for his belly than his life decided to taste the cheese and realised that it had changed into something magical.

Thank god for that person for we now have this absolutely beautiful ingredient that can grace our tables.

Blue cheese has had a history of admirers like Emperor Charlemagne, Pliny the Elder and even the legendary Casanova.

Blue cheeses are generally ranked among the top cheeses in the world for their dramatic appearance and sharp tangy flavour. Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola and Danablu are amongst the most common blue cheeses and definitely the better tasting ones.

Blue cheese received its name from the blue or blue green mold spores like Penicillium roqueforti or Penicilliumglaucum. These spores may be injected into the cheese like the case of Roquefort or mixed with the curd as done in the process of Gorgonzola. The exposure to mold helps the cheese to age properly and also develops its own unique flavour. Even today the cheese has to be aged in the very same caves from where they receive their names. Not much has changed in the manufacturing process which gives us a better insight into what was eaten in ancient times.

Sometimes copper wires are pierced into the cheese to enable air to pass and ensure the survival of the molds.

Most blue cheeses are made from cow’s milk although there are a couple of exceptions like the Scottish Lanark that are made from sheep milk.

Blue veined cheeses are referred to as royalty in the turophile world quite literally because of their blue veins.

Sharing my table with royalty is a fortunate thing indeed!

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