In less than a year, a worldwide pandemic has changed the way people live, eat and entertain. While the crisis is now full-blown and cases are surging, there is no way to predict when things will be back to normal or what the new normal will be.
The only certainty is that today is different. While we crave variety, many are getting tired of homecooked meals. With little outside entertainment, including a lack of restaurant options, people must take more personal responsibility in providing relief from day-to-day monotony.
Food can provide daily treats. Many specialty shops are working on limited hours or closing. Staying at home and reducing the number of shopping trips is also limiting variety. For manufacturers and cheesemakers, it is difficult to get new products approved, especially in large retailers.
There are options, however. Local businesses are struggling, and small cheese and charcuterie producers are hurting. This is the time to look for online options. If you have a favorite cheese, try searching the name and you may be able to buy it directly from the producer, along with appropriate serving ideas or other products that will be great accompaniments.
It’s not necessary to buy a wide assortment; one terrific cheese may be all you need. One large wedge and one pairing can be spectacular. I often feel cheese boards are so cluttered that it makes for confusion. When entertaining for small groups, go for less, not more. There are some wonderful seasonal cheeses available now that should be eaten within weeks, so buy one and enjoy it.
Aged cheeses are another option. There are many great cheeses that are pre-wrapped and have long shelf lives, so nothing will go to waste. I’ve kept unopened cheeses in my refrigerator for months, and they were perfect when opened. If there is a little blue mold on the rind, just cut it off.
Pairings can be added for additional excitement. I often envision raclette with boiled potatoes and an assortment of pickles. Fondue is killer for a relaxed evening. There is nothing better than a large wedge of a fine cheddar accompanied by chutney and crackers. Add a salad, and you have a complete meal.
The great thing about aged cheeses is their exceptionally long shelf life if stored properly. Buying an assortment of cheese in small wedges means you can make platters as small or large as the occasion calls for. And don’t think just about dinner. A simple combination of cheese, charcuterie, fruit or vegetables can be the perfect lunch for two. Use your time to support local companies. Find the cheeses you love online or at your local retailer. They need you to survive, and you need them to keep your sanity in a world that, right now, has all of us committed to staying home.