Cheese Please!

There is a theory when it comes to treating allergies that if you give the patient tiny little bits of the item they are allergic to over a period of time, they will eventually be able to tolerate those allergens. This works mostly with treatable allergens such as dust and mold. The sad thing about food allergies is that no serum has yet been created (they’re close with peanuts). Your only option is one the allergist glibly refers to as “avoidance”.

I’m pretty good about avoidance, for the most part. I eat the plasticy soy cheese, drink soy milk, soy sour cream, etc. I can be satisfied with soy alternatives for some foods, and I’m more than happy to not be supporting the mainstream dairy industry. But there is no soy-based replacement for really beautiful artisanal cheese.

Thus, there are times when you just have to look Death in the face and say, “Fuck you, Death! I am eating this brie!”, and be willing to live (or not) with the consequences.

Fortunately, while my cheese-related allergies are two-fold (both the milk protein casein, and mold), I am usually able to manage cheese early in the day. Just as you get more stuffed up with a cold towards the evening, my allergies affect me the same way. And as a bit of cheese won’t actually make me swell up and fall down, I figure it’s my own little version of the immunotherapy I’d get with injections – eventually, if I eat enough cheese, the allergy will be eradicated.

Thus, the luncheon cheese plate.

Greg, being the beer and cheese guy that he is, is always happy to try new cheeses. His tastes lean towards cheddars and stiltons, though, where mine are thoroughly French. I believe this comes from the years that I lived in Kensington Market, and often ate a cheese sandwich for lunch. The cheesemonger would slice up a bagel, top it with huge chunks of brie and for a buck-fifty, I’d have the best lunch ever. Of course, for a buck-fifty, I was getting bland, pasteurized, mostly tastless Canadian brie, but it was definitely the catalyst that set me on course.

Recently, after reading Gina Mallet’s Last Chance to Eat, I was jonesing for some really good brie. Raw milk brie, untainted by men in white lab coats and their need to pasteurize everything. The closest existing cheese to real old-tyme unpasteurized brie is Brie de Meaux. Lo and behold, without even having to work too hard in my quest, I came upon some at the cheese counter at WholeFoods. We grabbed a couple of others at the same time, some of which were astounding and one, well, we’re not quite sure how to dispose of that one, as it’s akin to toxic waste.

In any case, the cheese plate, from the top:

Extra-old Mimolette – my favourite cheese ever. Fruity, salty, and just about perfect. You know how people are always asked what they’d do if they won the lottery and they always say, “oh, I’d pay off debts, put the kids through college, buy a car…”? Me, if I won the lottery, I’d buy myself a whole $250 ball of Mimolette – and wouldn’t share it with anyone!

Brie de Meaux – soft, oozy, fruity-smelling. The flavour was mushrooms, and grass and too-ripe berries. I swooned, and then I ate some more. Totally worth the fight French cheese producers are putting up to keep their product from becoming industrialized.

Le Fetard (on top) – a hardish, slightly salty raw milk cheese from Quebec, made with Maudite beer. Greg found this a bit too salty, but paired with the lovely Forelle pears we were also eating, it was delicious. Sort of similar to good parmesan.

Tomme de Gross-Ile – We bought this along with the other Tomme (tomme means “cheese”) for a taste comparision. There was none – comparison, that is. This Quebec cheese smelled and tasted highly of ammonia and reminded me mostly of cleaning the cat box. The dogs will enjoy the rest of this one.

Tomme de Savoie – the original, made in the Alps, and significantly better than its Canadian counterpart. Another of the original French artisanal cheeses, this was firm to the bite, sharply flavoured, but mellow when paired with fruit or bread.

And the best part – I made it through without a snork or a sniffle. No stuffed-up nose, no swelly throat. Just me and the happy, happy cheese.