It's funny how certain food memories stay with you. I've been an avid pizza lover my whole life but I couldn't tell you when I had my first slice. What I can tell you is about the first time I ever really tasted cheese and crackers. I was young, not yet in school so maybe 4-5 years old and the neighbors across the street were having some sort of small afternoon party. They had three kids one of whom was my age so I spent a lot of time over there playing with them. That particular afternoon they must have had nibbles out for their friends because I remember being offered a plate of cheese and crackers.
It was sliced sharp cheddar cheese (I found this out later) and every slice was laid out on a cracker, probably Ritz or Stoned Wheat Crackers. You weren't supposed to take one without the other and I was hungry so I tried the combination. I remember the slightly nutty flavor of the cheese, salty and creamy against the crunch of the cracker. It was crumbly and sweet, crunchy and savory and I immediately knew I was going to want more. Being a practical child, even then, I asked what we were eating and the mom showed me the square log of Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar cheese. I noted it and afterwards when I went home I asked my Aunt Marie to buy me some. We went to the supermarket together, okay we almost always went together, but it was especially important that time because I was able to pick out the cheese myself and make sure it was the right one. I went home and recreated the perfect cheese and crackers and never looked back.
This spawned a lifelong love affair with cheese. I never did manage to develop a taste for mild cheddars, they are too bland and buttery for me. That said, my fascination with the rich tang of sharp cheddar is still with me, happily supplemented by a desire to taste and experience every new cheese I come across. From the rich triple cremes to the dry Parmigianos there is always something wonderful about a carefully made cheese, wrapped and stored with love and expertise. Even now Alex and I occasionally make a meal out of cheese and crackers, with salad on the side. It's a perfectly satisfying meal that hits all the high points in my mouth and takes me down memory lane. Of course now there are usually a few more choices on the cheese plate and we each cut and spread our own but the heart of the meal is the same.
March 11, 2006