Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More on that mysterious AOC...

If you're interested in furthering your French cheese research, but don't necessarily have les francs to fly to France, check out Murray's Cheese Course July curriculum. The following classes promise to provide you with plenty more education (both intellectual and gastronomic) on the subject:

Raw vs. Pasteurized: Myth vs. Reality

The (A.)O.C.

Faux fromage? Quelle Horreur!

The New York Times ran a story in today's Dining In/Dining Out section that explores the AOC designation of Camembert, and the possibility of a significant shift in the designation criteria. The article can be found at:

Rob Kaufelt responds to the article with this letter to the editor:

For an aging cheesemonger like me, the commodification of Camembert (‘If Rules Change, Will Camembert Stay the Same?’ June 20) in Normandy, France, is dire news. Having spent many years lauding this most perfect of raw milk cheeses, the notion that France would seriously consider granting this ‘faux fromage’ the coveted AOC status is a travesty.
Not that one can find these perfect treasures here in the United States, mind you, as raw milk cheeses aged less than sixty days are illegal and cannot be imported or sold here. Of course, not too long ago rules were a little lax and there was always the odd bit of cheese contraband to be had. Now, however, things have tightened up considerably and the opportunity to savor one of these little treasures must be had abroad. While our thermalized brands are tasty, anyone familiar with both versions will instantly notice they are a bit short of sublime.
Ironic, too, as just the other day a friend offered me a slice of Sandwich Mate plastic-wrapped yellow single for some burgers he was grilling up. While the Camembert only contains the finest milk, a little rennet, and a little salt, this icon of Americana contains water as its main ingredient; hydrogenated soybean oil, a transfat known to cause premature heart disease; casein, now almost 100% imported, usually from China and as undocumented as to its source protein or other content as melamine laced pet food; and assorted citrates, phosphates, gums and 250 mg of sodium per slice.
How comforting to be protected from one of the world’s great cheeses while the virtually unregulated ingredients in our industrial food supply may literally be poisoning us. That this has been our government’s policy for years is no news, but France? The French are the standard bearers of fine food and have a duty to hold the line on any bastardization of the food supply.
As for our own government, instead of insuring a steady supply of pure, natural, real foods, we are to be made ‘safe’ once again by substituting the ersatz for the authentic. Can we look forward to the day that all we eat comes from a foreign factory designed only to maximize its profit, and nothing to do with tradition or taste? On the other hand, although our government’s foreign policy may often be questionable, at least we are secure in the knowledge that they have made us safe from raw milk cheese.
Rob Kaufelt
Murray’s Cheese, Greenwich Village
Author of ‘The Murray’s Cheese Handbook”
June 20, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spend an Evening in the Garden with Murray's

Please join us on Wednesday, June 27th for
An Evening in the Garden

sponsored by Murray's Cheese
at Central Park's Conservatory Garden,
one of the most magnificent spots in New York.
Murray's Cheese will have experts on-hand
to guide you through themed wine and cheese pairings
in each of the Conservatory Garden's three beautiful gardens.
Your support will directly enhance the maintenance
of this essential New York landmark we all hold so dear.

Today, the Central Park Conservancy is responsible for
84 percent of Central Parks $25 million annual operating budget.
Murray's Cheese is proud to be a sponsor of such a noble effort.
Join us, and help us keep Central Park spectacular.

An Evening in the Garden:

Thursday, June 14, 2007 Experiences Real Food at Murray's

June 13, 2007

Chicken with skin, potatoes with butter and milk -- this diet is what Nature intended? Nina Planck explains why.

Posted on

Her father was a college professor in upstate New York. Her mother started a school. But in the 1970s, Nina Planck's parents bought 60 acres in Virginia and, with their three children, started a new life --- as farmers.

The Plancks made a living selling produce at roadside stands and farmer's markets. Their children were forced to eat real food. They grew up healthy and strong. But in her teens, Nina became a vegan. She had been 5'5" and 120 pounds, "most of it muscle." Now she ran three to six miles a day --- and bloomed to 147 pounds, with less muscle tone.

Alarmed, she started responding to her natural hungers. And she learned two things:

1) "The more meat, fish, butter and eggs I ate, the better I felt."

2) "No traditional culture is vegan --- humans are omnivores."

Omnivores. Hmm. That should ring a bell; I was so impressed by Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" that I wrote a long, two-part review. Planck's book is a kind of sequel to Pollan, a hands-on guide to what you ought to eat, and why.

Planck's major proposition is that "traditional" food --- "foods we've been eating for a long time" --- is good for us. "Industrial" food --- "recent and synthetic" --- is bad for us. Worse, industrial food leads to the diseases of the industrial era: obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Real foods lead to health and vitality.

You want to eat the skin of a roast chicken? Please do. Like mashed potatoes moistened with butter and milk? Go right ahead. And, yes, eat meat: "Plant protein is always inferior to animal protein."

Some of this will be familiar --- there are echoes here of the Mediterranean diet. What is new to me is the unwavering emphasis on natural foods in their purest form: grass-fed beef, whole milk from pastured cows, raw milk yogurts and cheeses. And on cooking combinations, foods that work together to release more useful energy in your body.

The bad news here is the good news. Planck has done massive homework, and the book is clotted with science. On the plus side, that suggests her conclusions --- which will surely seem cracked to those who don't buy food products not labeled "low fat" --- aren't just the pet theories of the whole foods crowd. On the minus side, it means you need to read, pen in hand, to mark the good stuff.

But then, you should read "Real Food" as if you're going to school --- there are that many pointers to better living here. Like which "organic" foods to eat. Unless you have unlimited wealth, you'll notice your food bills are dramatically higher if you opt for an all-natural kitchen. If you have to choose, Planck says, it's better to buy grocery vegetables and wash the chemicals off. Save your money for organic, grass-feed beef --- if there are pesticides in animal protein, they're in the most concentrated form. Not healthy.

And there are charming factoids along the way. My favorite: "spring" butter, so named because it's produced by cows eating lush pasture in spring and fall. Priests used to bless it. If I could find some and slather it on real bread, I imagine I might too.

Inspired by this book, I went down to Murray's Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village and bought a sampling of raw milk cheeses and yogurt. The yogurt had creamy lumps that made me think twice --- until I had some. So that's what yogurt tastes like! Ditto the cheeses, all of them much stronger than what we usually get.

Thanks to Pollard and Planck, we have banished most of the products that our fellow citizens enthusiastically swallow --- for the kid, we've even been able to find Heinz Ketchup without High Fructose Corn Syrup. This week, we'll start making our own yogurt.

In a few weeks, I truly believe, we'll feel healthier. And be healthier too.

How can you not be interested in Nina Planck's book?