Saturday, November 10, 2007

Remember to Say Cheese and Thank You

Cheese. My drug of choice.

Just as I am turning the page from October’s over-saturated grid to a November full of time and possibility, I am reminded that I owe the month of November a healthy dose of gratitude.
Like many, I am encouraged to recall my blessings as an American in celebration of Thanksgiving Day.
Unlike most (and no one else I know personally), I am encouraged to recall my blessings as a wife, in celebration of my wedding anniversary. A joyous day full of fuzzy details that occurred almost decades ago on a cold, rainy Friday immediately following one huge turkey dinner.
As I sit in quiet reflection, I offer praise for all the goodness life has shown me thus far. I am reminded of that happy day, the celebration of our union as husband and wife, and I am left with a burning question;
Why wasn’t there cheese at our wedding?

Few things in life (and take note, I said things), make me happier than cheese. It is for this very reason that I am plagued with regret over a missed opportunity so many years ago.

Some brides wish for horse drawn carriages, while others might demand world travel to satisfy honeymoon tradition. I ask only that we turn back the clock and sneak in a cheese course.

Wedding tradition in my almost-long-ago past, did not routinely include the services of a wedding planner. Hubby and I, with the help of our parents, did the “planning.”
Based on my knowledge today, we were ahead of the game for the simple facts that he wore matching socks and I managed to shave both legs in the same day.
But the knowledge of those sometimes painful truths that accompany married life was not available to us on that feted day. Instead, we were jaded by the promise of a perfect life together and blinded by an all-inclusive package-deal that included everything.
Everything, but a cheese course.

I sometimes wonder though if a higher power had a hand in the omission of this course from our menu, knowing full well that I would be forever challenged by my incurable addiction.
It all began so innocently…

I was raised in a home where Mozzarella was a staple item, as familiar to our refrigerator as butter and eggs.
One of my fondest childhood memories recalls a precise orchestration of ingredients including toasted Thomas’ English muffins, mother’s Marinara sauce and glorious, gooey Mozzarella. It was love at first bite and like most addicts-to-be, I wanted too much of a good thing.
At a painful point in my adolescence, my muffin supply was cut off and I was forced to find a replacement (sans nooks and crannies).
I turned to the evils of white bread and soon discovered a device (lurking in my mother's pantry) that, when placed over an open flame, would seal the ingredients forming a pocket of melty deliciousness. Bite after oozy bite would result in unnaturally giddy behavior. This unusual cast-iron contraption was known to my family as a ‘Toas-Tite,’ and it wasn’t until I had experimented with the likes of Swiss, Muenster, Havarti, Gruyere, and even some of the hard stuff like Pecorino, that it was finally removed from my mother’s kitchen, in an effort to stop the madness (rumor has it that it currently resides with a more disciplined sister in North Carolina).

By the time I was in my late teens, I had ignored all of the warning signs and instead headed down a darker path.
On a cold, December day at a ski shop by which I was employed, I passed the point of no return when I agreed to experience Fondue. This was the pinnacle moment when I realized that a life without cheese isn’t a life worth living at all. The symphonic blend of three cheeses and fine wine was pure magic to my palate. I could only hope to master such wizardry.
I would soon come to depend on the cheap conveniences of Sterno and Laughing Cow.

At one of my lowest points (or more likely, my highest), I would suffer from occasional hallucinations. At times I would imagine myself elbow-deep in curds and whey, surrounded by all forms of cheese paraphanalia. Other times I would imagine being in the company of master cheese-makers in some top-secret location, being taught how to smoke a Gouda.

As a young adult, and once I started dating, I mastered the art of deception. I would often cheese-binge on weekdays and come date night, my companions were none the wiser. If I really needed a fix, I might order a low-key Swiss omelet or perhaps a cheeseburger deluxe at the local diner, allowing little cause for suspicion or interrogation (every addict knows that the hard stuff is best left for home consumption).

I would like to say that my addiction came to a crashing halt once I met my husband, but as most enablers do, he married me and my dirty little secret, and we spoke not a word of it.

But as children so often have the uncanny ability to unlock closets we once thought secure, and acquaint themselves with unfriendly skeletons, my secret was exposed on one sunny, Sunday morning.
I awoke rather late, to what seemed like an ambush of questioning. They grew alarmed at my inability to recall key details from my cousin’s wedding the night before. Which, I am told was, for me, a wild night of binging on the likes of rice balls, eggplant rollatini and chicken Cordon Bleu (it turns out that I am most vulnerable to methods which include rolling and heating).

And so, that was the day my out-in-the-open battle began. At first, I was angry. But now I realize that I am a better person for having my addiction. I am a more compassionate person, especially to others who fight this same demon (Chicago Lefty, are you out there?). And because this addiction shows no bias, I have crossed paths with those I might have never met, if not for cheese. We are everywhere, from quiet corners of PTA luncheons, to deserted sample-stations at markets and wholesale clubs, and even behind the mahogany desks of fifth-floor corporations.

Now, almost two decades later, I am faced with the daunting responsibility of scheduling yearly physicals whose results often challenge my daily choices. With the support of my physician I am putting forth the effort to manage my addiction. But I make no promises. For me, cheese is pure joy.
I will deal with the urges one tray at a time.

And getting back to the subject of blessings; personally, there are many for which I owe gratitude. It is only in jest that I suggest we turn back the clock. The fact is, even if the opportunity presented itself, I wouldn’t rewrite my own history or change the details of our happy wedding day.
Life has its potholes (Wait, stop there. Sorry, but, as a result of my addiction, as I type the word “potholes,” I immediately envision a road made of Swiss cheese); so, let’s move away from the pothole metaphor…

Life presents us with the good, the bad and the ugly. It is we who determine what matters most.
For the month of November and especially on Thanksgiving Day, I am determined to recall and reflect upon my blessings. When I am asked for whom I am most thankful, my list will include my loving family, friends and neighbors. But if the opportunity presents itself to recall some thing that has made a significant impact on my life,
I will remember to say Cheese, and Thank You.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


--Michelle



At the risk of enabling others, I have decided not to post a recipe.
I will offer only this advice:
Where scrambled eggs are concerned, I think Swiss is king. It has flavor and meltability bar none.
For a quick, delightful burger, my favorite combination includes a toasted bagel in your flavor of choice—I prefer onion, poppy or everything (and in this case the frozen-in-the-bag market brand works best because there is a balanced bagel-to-beef ratio), with an all beef burger, topped with melted Muenster cheese and grilled onions—if you’re not a fan of onions, a healthy portion of sprouts offers a close second (alfalfa is my choice). Finally, top it off with your favorite condiments (mine include ketchup, a smattering of mayo and those bread ‘n butter pickle slices).
As for the hole in the bagel, not surprisingly it requires melted cheese on both sides to avoid juicy drips.

And there are so many more…but, I’d better stop there.

2 comments:

Dee said...

Yuuuuuuummmmmm-cheese!

Happy Annivesary (a little early)

Madalon said...

So that's where the Toast-Tite went! I'd ask Nene to bring it for a visit at Christmas, but I fear it would be confiscated by a TSA agent during a luggage check.

And speaking of suitcases, remind me to tell you a story about a fearfully straitlaced coworker and some raw-milk reblochon from France. I think it's safe to tell it now, as the evidence has long since been eaten. Pure, smelly heaven.