Monday, February 11, 2008

Haunted Pumpkins – In February?!?

When its your full time job to baby happy cheeses, the way other outfits (mis)handle their product can blow your mind.

Like the other day I was cruise'n down the sidewalk, re-energized after my warming soup lunch (my desk in the caves is a breezy 53F). And I happened upon the open-end of a large truck parked right outside the store.

From a distance it looked like there were three enormous pumpkins, bound with twiney rope, as if they were to be hung from the ceiling of a haunted house. They were just sitting there unwrapped; no protective boxes or paper – just bruised and naked pumpkins all tied up on the bed of this truck.

I jogged up for a closer look – wait a minute! That's our Super-Aged Provolone Mandarone that we had imported especially for our February promo. It is meant to hang as it ages and it is supposed to be that deep, nutty brown color like super-aged gouda, but it's also supposed to be handled with care. We've been awaiting the arrival of this rare and rustic behemoth for weeks, months even. I approached the driver: 'Hey man, what's that?'

'You'd never believe it,' he said, 'its provolone cheese!'

To which I puffed, 'I know its cheese, dude. It's our super-special promo waiting to happen, but what's it doing getting thrown around?'

He looked befuddled, thinking he was blowing the mind of a tourist, only to find that he was blowing the mind of this cheese's future nanny. I raced to the back door so I could warn the receiver that we might have to refuse this abused cheese. I dutifully called the other managers in outrage. I am serious about quality control. Could Murray's Cheese accept a wheel that had been tossed around so thoughtlessly?

The answer I got was, "How does it taste? Let's start there, even if it looks like a rotten pumpkin. So I plugged the mangy spectacle to taste test it right in front of the driver and everyone.

I wanted to hate it. I pre-wrinkled my nose and readied my senses for disaster. And then I was defeated. It was totally delicious. It was at once intensely caramely and sharp, with a crystalline crumbly texture that creamed-up on the palate. Damn. I couldn't return a perfectly good cheese. A great cheese even – whose ancestors had probably seen worse days, lying around in hay carts before the arts of refrigeration and sanitation were perfected, waiting to be eaten. This was probably the most appropriate and true to life method of delivery for such a dinosaur.

So come buy a hunk while we still have it around. (Even though I scrubbed the hell out of it, you still might want to leave the battered wax rind aside on this one.)

~by Zoe Brickley