Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Joy of Cheese

Yesterday Michael, Annalee and I went to the cheese making class that we had signed up for a month ago after reading about it in an issue of Sunset magazine. As we pulled into the parking lot at Kookoolan Farms for “Basic Soft Cheeses” and neatly parked our Subaru next to a row of other Subarus it hit me how clich├ęd we’d become.

The instructor was a very nice man with a slicked back ponytail and a batiked shirt who kinda reminded me of Steven Segal’s hippie brother. His name was Scott but he went by Dominic (his middle name) as his “cheese making name.” I’d never thought of cheese making as something you needed to adopt a separate persona for but apparently you do.

We took the remaining three seats in the back row and poured ourselves a glass of complementary Kombucha tea. While Dominic started explaining about the types of cheeses we’d be making that day, a series of cheese-related slides rolled through on the wall to the right of the front of the room. Most of these were pictures of cheese or facts about the history of cheese but there were some gems, including a slide with a song to be sung on April 3rd which is “Cheese Weasel Day” (country of origin unknown). The most notable slide, however, featured a grinning pseudo-hippie in a garish black wig flashing a peace sign with the caption, “You have any soy cheese heroin?” This slide was never explained and I decided not to ask about it so I could just imagine all the different things it was supposed to represent.

At the end of the class we decided that a lack of a cooler and free time on Sunday was enough of a deterrent to keep us from diving into purchasing raw milk and supplies. The owner, a petite redheaded woman, was sitting at her computer in the backroom and I walked back to inquire if I might be permitted to go look at the cows. Not only could I look at them, she directed me to the pasture where they were nestled down in the shade and told me I could walk down if I wanted to give them a pat. Michael and Annalee declined my offer to let them tag along with me so I let myself through the first gate and set off down a long, steep cow-patty strewn hill.

I came to the gate at the bottom of the hill which was just held shut by a thin chain attaching the gate to the fence. The one bit of instruction I’d been given was to make sure they didn’t get out since “everyone’s pasture is always greener.” I trudged over across another half of a pasture with even more cow manure and it hit me how my Little House fantasies aren't filled with this much shit. In the corner of the pasture, under the shade of a tree were five of the most beautiful, otherworldly looking cows I’d ever seen. Their eyes were huge black orbs. But also diverting from my fantasy was the fact that these cows’ faces were covered in flies.

I gingerly walked over and tentatively tried to pat one on the nose while whispering upbeat and calmly reassuring “Hi guys!” to the group. They weren’t impressed and started to squirm as if to say, “Listen lady, it’s hot and we’re covered and flies and our own fecal matter but if you’re really going to make us get up and walk over to the other side then that’s what we’ll do.” I decided to not harass them further and began to walk away.

I’d only gotten a few steps away when I heard one of the cows get up and start walking toward me. I turned and gave a reassuring, “Oh hi! Hi buddy!” Another one got up and began walking toward me. I was elated, clearly these cows trusted me. Then I turned to and saw to my horror that the gate to the main pasture had swung wide open. This was bad. I started to run toward the gate at exactly the same moment one of the cows broke into a trot. I could hear the other three rising to their feet behind me. Clad in one flip-flop and a post-surgery Velcro shoe from getting the screw out of my foot two days before, I ran toward the gate, arms flailing as I shouted “No! No!” I pulled ahead just in time to swing the gate shut. My heart was still racing by the time I trudged back up the hill.

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