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.
After my family’s annual Easter egg hunt, mom often deviled those colorful little ovals that had been hidden in our backyard. She’d peel and cut them in half, mash the yolks with mayonnaise and minced celery, and spoon the mixture back into the whites. While fairly pedestrian, they were a beloved fixture at our family picnics and barbecues, usually sprinkled with paprika to garnish.
Everywhere there is milk, there is cheese. The alchemy of an excellent cheese is well known: the skill of the cheesemaker, the species and diet of the milk source, even goût de terroir. Cheese tasting gives the traveler not only the experience of world flavors, but also of culture and place.