Cheeses: I’ve been researching all of the different types, in other words, I’ve been tasting them. You see, I’m off the hook for cooking dinner on Christmas Day and I’m in charge of the cheeseboard. I’m happy with my task. I reckoned it would be an easy job: one blue, one hard, one soft – bish, bash, bosh! No, no, no, seems it’s not that simple after all. I’ve discovered the horrifyingly wonderful blessing that is: the choice to be had in Mellis’s. As the famous advertisement said: if Carlsberg did Cheesemongers, then it would probably look like Mellis’s in Edinburgh. It’s fantastic, so fantastic that it is where I came unstuck. If you like cheese, there could be worse places to find yourself unstuck. My first dilemma was one of geography. Was I to stay local and opt for an all-Scottish cheeseboard, or should I extend my reach across the British Isles? Mind-meltingly, should I widen it even further and take in all of Europe? (Europe, I have long since decided, is the outer limit of my cheese boundary.) Besides one soft, one hard and one blue, it seems another rule of thumb is that one should select one sheep’s one cow’s and one goat’s. Fewer that three is measly. More than four is gluttony. There are beginning to be a lot of variables. Help! I need a spreadsheet, where’s M.?
Without saying what I’ve gone for, I’ll describe a few of what I was tempted by. A soft, runny Swiss Vacherin from the Jura Mountains. It’s packed in a circular spruce box because it gets so gooey when left at room temperature, so the ‘fromager’ (cheese man) told me. It has a soft, pale, brown rind, with deep, wave-like indentations; a yielding texture (understatement – you could eat it with a spoon) and it’s a little sweet, with grassy undertones. I hope you are getting the idea of how much fun this was! Perhaps I then went for something named after this city – Auld Reekie – a cow’s milk cheese that is smoked over whisky barrel shavings. Despite its name it is made in Aberdeenshire! The cheese man suggested a Brie De Meaux with buttery flavours of truffles and almonds. He said the Brie was more of a tradition than Stilton in his house at Christmas – nice with a slug of Bordeaux, he recommended. The timing was perfect for my cheese joke. “Did you hear about the explosion in the cheese factory? All that was left was de-brie.” “Leave it out for a good while before you serve it,” he told me, not laughing as much as I had hoped. He didn’t really laugh at all actually. (Is it that bad?) “It’ll need to get to room temperature and make sure you serve it before your pudding – sugar ruins the palate.” I nodded, knowingly. “Any other tips?” I asked as I was leaving. “Just one,” he said, “don’t serve up any more cheese jokes.”
Sometimes I like to fly in the face of proffered advice, so here’s my selection of cheesy Christmas cracker jokes, sure when else will I get the chance?!
How do the Welsh eat their cheese? Caerphilly
Which cheer would you use to coax a bear down from a tree? Camembert
Which is the most feminist cheese? Germaine Gruyère
What does cheese say when it looks in the mirror? Halloumi