Well, it looks like the summer holidays have certainly taken their toll on my blog. Museum visits, cricket in the park and excessive ice-cream consumption (not to mention the small matter of doing some actual work on top) left little time for writing about cheese. And the more you feel guilty about not doing something, the harder it becomes to actually do it after a while. Fortunately, the schools have opened their doors once more and, at the same time, the cheddar-makers at Barber’s asked me if I’d like to develop a new recipe for their flagship 1833 brand. It was just what I needed to get back on the cheese-horse again.
Contrary to what some of my friends think, I do not, alas, lie on a chaise longue all today quaffing free cheese. Partly because eating cheese lying down is a recipe for indigestion but also because mine is not the kind of blog that gets inundated with freebies. Which is fine by me, as a large part of the fun of it is deciding what cheese to try next.
Recently, however, I got invited to the Good Food Show by the cheddar chaps at Barber’s in Somerset and didn’t hesitate to accept; partly because it seemed free cheese might finally be in the offing, partly because it meant twelve hours on my own without having to attend to anyone’s toileting or answer questions about slugs, but mainly because I had recently found out that Barber’s are the sole guardians of Britain’s traditional starter cultures. For a cheese geek like me, it was an offer too good to turn down.
Whenever my friend Rachel goes back to her native Isle of Man, she puts up with a variety of hilarious gags about tax avoidance and Jeremy Clarkson’s holiday home. Maybe some light-hearted ribbing about sheep and/or incest. You know, all the usual xenophobic island stereotypes. But when she recently brought me back some Manx cheese, I started to wonder if the joke was on me. You see, it had [gasp] ‘fruity bits’ in it, mango and pineapple to be precise. If I’m honest, my first thought was, ‘Ugh! Cheese aberration.’