Feta cheese has been a part of Greece for nearly as long as humanity itself. It comes from the very first cheese around 8,000 years ago, which was made soon after people began domesticating animals. Historians believe that milk began to ferment while being transported in the stomach of a goat or sheep. The shepherds noticed that the new product lasted much longer than fresh milk—and cheese was born.
Recently, I’ve noticed fondue sets, including a pot, table stand with burner and color-coated forks, are being sold in cookware shops and online again. I say “again” because a couple of times in my past, serving fondue was all the rage, and I loved serving this to my family and friends.
For years, I’ve served dishes that were spontaneously created from my refrigerator or made with food—sometimes slightly dried or in need of trimming—that otherwise might get thrown away. My kids ate countless minestrones, chilies and even tossed salads that were never the same from one version to the next. The fact is, I disdain wasting food, plus I think those bits can add style, texture, color and taste.
People like to throw around superlatives when talking about the colossus of curd clout, that holey wheel so familiar, it has its own emoji—Emmentaler. It’s been called the world’s largest cheese, Switzerland’s most popular and one of the U.S.’s most imported. And according to Alfred Rufer, vice director of the Emmentaler Appellation d’Origine Protegée (AOP), it’s also the most copied.
My first quiche was a voluptuous open-faced tart with smoky lardons, Gruyère and golden strands of sautéed onion baked in custard. It was called a Lorraine, and I was seduced. Later, I learned it was a misnomer according to the French society that defined quiches, saying that only bacon should be in the seasoned custard. With cheese added, it becomes a Vosgienne (referring to the Vosges region of France); sautéed onions in the mix make it Alsaçienne. But Lorraine became the familiar name for many of these savory tarts.
For man of us, winter means repeatedly putting on and taking off parkas, scarves, hats and gloves as a barrier to the damp and frigid temperatures. That irksome chore, coupled with shoveling snow and other cold weather activities, can build up quite an appetite. You crave hearty fare to keep warm. Hibernating sometimes seems tempting.