See this article. It’s about how in opposition to the findings of the FDA, state legislators in West Virginia recently celebrated a victory. They decided to legalize the consumption of raw milk in their state and celebrated by toasting each other with the stuff. Well, guess what happened? They all got sick and the health department is investigating. Now, before everybody gets all dogmatic and ranty, you should know that I have changed my opinion several times on the subject of raw milk cheeses vs. pasteurized or thermalized products. At the end of the day, it’s about personal choice and good information to me. You get to decide all by yourself whether or not you find the risk of consuming these products is acceptable or not. While it is certainly much riskier to consume these products, I think people should be able to find out what the realistic risks and possible benefits are. I promise to go into this more deeply in the future.
For the time being, let me be clear about what I have learned about this subject.
1) It is certainly riskier to drink raw milk than pasteurized. Read what PubMed has to say about that here. There is much, much more scientific data about this. We’ll get to that later when I feel more confrontational. It won’t be long, my buddy calls me “Mr. Confrontation.”
2) Raw milk is not healthier than pasteurized milk in any way. Let me repeat that for the hordes of people that have heard the opposite: Raw milk is not healthier than pasteurized milk in any way!!! The loss of vitamins to heat is minuscule, the enzymes in the raw milk are not active as enzymes in a human body, and your body does not benefit from the bacteria present in raw milk.
A good primer on the subject can be found at the website of the Center for Disease Control here.
I will grant one point, which is an important one. I do think that cheese made from raw milk general tastes slightly more interesting to me. It is because of this that I think the consumer should be armed with all the information and be given the opportunity to make their own decision. After all, as risky as it may be to drink raw milk, it is far riskier to get in your car and go to work. The difference is that there aren’t any large groups of people telling you that getting in your car makes you healthy and doesn’t pose any risk at all. And remember, I still would far prefer to eat cheese made with high quality, gently pasteurized milk by an expert hand, than to eat a raw milk cheese made with low quality milk, out of season, from a sick animal, made by a beginner. It will taste better and be safer. At the end of my day, I personally don’t care very much what the Cheesemaker did to my milk, I care if I think it tastes good. And yes, I feel a bit safer eating the pasteurized stuff but as long as I know the farmers are keeping a sanitary environment and I think they’re responsible, I have no problem eating mountains of raw milk cheese.
I promise, I will go into this in painful detail later, I just really wanted to point out how it would be nice to have actual experts make health decisions for us or at least be invited to the table.
Again, thanks to the great Steven Novella at Neurologica for getting this conversation started.
I planned on writing a bit on this lately controversial topic. See this: Action On A National GMO Labeling Measure Heats Up On Capitol Hill.
It’s a sensitive and frustrating topic because people seem to have strongly held beliefs on both sides. One side is defensive about corporate greed, evil scientists, evil government, and extreme caution of anything perceives to be “unnatural.” The other side sees this technology as a marvel of human progress that can potentially save the world and safely feed billions.
The longer answer for me personally is that all GMO technology is different, and if you want to claim that one specific example is safe, unsafe, environmentally friendly, or not, you really need to address which specific GMO you are talking about. Then you need to convince me with some objective, hard data to defend your side of the issue. The shorter answer for me, personally, is that I generally tend to think that advancements in science are in large part responsible for giving us all the modern, comfortable lifestyles that most of us enjoy. This includes safer food, clean drinking water, smartphones, tablets, cars, vaccines,…
However, my mind is continually open (just not so open that my brains will fall out). If someone is claiming that a particular GMO is bad for whatever reason, convince me with the data and I will gleefully change my mind. I first would caution you that this may be an uphill battle for a couple of reasons: First, before you start screaming about how the evil scientists are trying to murder us or gain control of our brains, maybe you should exclude the good scientists at Oxitec, who managed to genetically modify male mosquitoes to mate with females and kill the babies, thereby potentially eliminating the Zika virus wherever they are released. I’m sure there are quite a few pregnant Brazilian women who are happy to lessen the chance of having babies born with shrunken heads. Thank you, GMO scientists.
Oh yeah, you also may want to thank Norman Borlaug, who genetically altered wheat to give it higher yields, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize. He has been credited with saving roughly one billion people from starvation.
Second, the term GMO is very loosely defined. Where do you draw the line? Just so you know, just about everything we eat has been genetically modified at some point in its history; that’s how life works! Show me wild corn, it’s not a thing. Ever try eating a wild banana? They’re just about inedible. Cross-breeding, cross-pollinization, grafting, hybridizing, and more have been practiced by farmers since farming became a thing. You think cows that produce extra milk that their calves could never consume happened naturally? We humans have been running this show for quite some time now.
Today’s scientists simply have better tools at their disposal to experiment more quickly and efficiently on the genetic level.
There I go ranting on again. Just remember, I am open to the possibility of any product, GMO or not, to be unhealthy or risky in some way. Just show me the mechanism and let me see the data. There are certainly many foods that can hurt me and I don’t want to eat them. GMO foods are certainly no exception, but I have to take each one on a case-by-case basis. These two statements are equally silly to me:
• “I got sick eating a mushroom that I picked, therefore all mushrooms are bad and can kill you.”
• “GMO tomatoes have been proven to increase your risk of heart disease (not true) by 10%, therefore, all GMO foods are bad.”
Although I did get violently sick from drinking too much rum in 1982 and I haven’t had one sip of rum since.
Anyway, if this topic at all interests you, please read Neurolgica’s blog post on the subject. It’s quite good, easy to read, and eye opening. He’s much smarter than I am.
One of our best and most loyal customers won an Oscar on Sunday night! I think it’s probably best to ask him or her for permission to give their name out but I am so happy and proud of him or her. To be honest, I am not a big fan of the Oscars but if someone I know pretty well gets nominated, I’ll suck it up and watch. Besides, it was a nice diversion for my family just one week after the biggest tragedy of our lives. Fortunately, the award was given extremely early on and I was spared from sitting through countless minutes of nonsense. It’s funny, I have been known to jump through extraordinary hoops to avoid witnessing this festival of self-congratulating rich people, but if somebody I know gets nominated, I’m like a high school girl at a Back Street Boys concert! Did I just reveal my age?! I’m pretty sure I’m down with all the homies and whatnot. I can feel my niece rolling her eyes at me right now. Anyway, I’m back to work after being gone for about six weeks to be with my family. It’s nice to have a routine to come back to and the Oscars provided some much needed distraction and excitement while my family and I try to move forward after the loss of my beautiful mother. She was always so eager to hear about all the celebrities that visit the shop. She even had a list going to brag to her friends. She knew about the nomination. She would have been so pleased to see the selfie I will inevitably take with me and the Oscar winner next time he or she comes into the shop! I guess I’ll have to send it to my sister instead. She will love it.
Ahh, Rungis. No thank you, I don’t need a tissue. Most of us, even the French, even Parisians, have never even heard of the largest and greatest food market in the world. The stories are almost legendary. It is the size of a small town, located near Orly airport in a southern suburb of Paris. This gastronome’s fantasyland covers 573 acres, employs 13,000 people daily, has its own train station, freeway exit, and is not open to the general public.
The Marché International de Rungis (Rungis International Market) is open to professionals only. They hold the seemingly bizarre hours of 1:00 am – 11:00 am. The freshest seafood always disappears by 6:00 am or so. The market is constantly patrolled by security and omnipresent food inspectors, including veterinary, bacteriological, and provenance. It’s so huge that you have to drive between sections. The bulk of this gargantuan display of food winds up in the specialty shops, supermarkets, and restaurants in Paris and the surrounding areas.
Rungis is not for the squeamish. There are aisles full of hanging animal carcasses including pigs, cows, calves, lamb, rabbits, and more exotic game. That’s just the Boucher (butcher). There is a whole other section for the cured styles of meats (charcuterie), and yet still another section called volailler (poulterer) where you will find all manner of very recently deceased birds. Needless to say, they keep Rungis quite chilly and you would be wise to wear a winter coat inside. Have I mentioned the fish section? 200 lbs. of halibut, anyone?
There are also separate buildings for more humane fare. Flowers, dairy (mountains of cheese!), fruit, and veggies.
This brings me to my point. In France and most of Western Europe, people generally shop at specialty shops. They like to seek the advice of experts, and are generally better educated about their food products and where they come from. Part of what makes America great and successful is our work ethic and competition derived from our capitalistic economy. The other side of that coin is that we are always in such a hurry. We can’t even imagine doing our food shopping at seven different stores, much less two or three. We like to make as few stops as possible, and load up with enough ground beef to last a family of four for a month. Europeans are much more likely to walk into the butcher shop, tell him or her what they want the ground beef for, choose the exact type or mix of meats for the meal they have planned, listen to suggestions of what looks good right now or what may go well with it, and possibly watch the butcher grind it right there in front of them. Then they go to the Boulangerie for the bread, the florist, the farmer’s market, the cheese shop, the wine shop, and the patisserie for dessert. The service at all these places will be similar, probably curt but professional and helpful, and the selections will be perfect.
So, you can certainly save some time and money with one-stop shopping. I do it myself more often than I’d like to admit. But maybe one day soon, maybe for Valentine’s Day, try a little Euro on for size. Go to a bakery and find some fresh bread, visit the farmer’s market for your fruit and veggies, stop by a specialty seafood store or a butcher, get some flowers for the table from an actual florist, swing on by a cheese shop, grab a nice bottle of wine out of that little fridge that you bought when you thought you were going to start buying Bordeaux futures, and walk into that pastry shop that you have been drooling over. Maybe do the shopping together and prepare the food together as well. It’ll be cheaper and better than buying that overpriced prix-fixe at that famous restaurant anyway. By the way, send me a note if you find a volailler in Los Angeles!
A unique solution to assist with global warming. We all know that cows release methane which is a huge greenhouse gas, this dairy uses the cow’s waste to produce clean (although smelly) energy and voila, net zero carbon footprint!
I don’t recall cheese getting so much mainstream press in quite some time. Check out this GQ article about the addictive qualities of cheese, and this LA Times article. Both articles talk about the addictive properties of cheese, comparing it to cocaine and crack.
As much as it is good for business to know that I am selling a highly addictive product that can’t be resisted without rehab and a twelve step program, I am a big science geek, and like most headlines, when you dig a little deeper, it’s less interesting.
It turns out that the study was done on rats, not people. Not all rats either, just the obese ones. So… maybe cheese is addictive in humans, maybe just fat rats. I have a suspicion that things like fat,protein, and salt are pretty addictive (not surprising) but maybe the comparisons to cocaine and crack are slightly hyperbolic. We were robbed once and I would guess that the criminal didn’t use the money he stole from the shop to buy cheese. In fact, he didn’t steal any cheese at all, and some of it goes for around $80/lb. Weird.
We had a private Grilled Cheese and Beer Night again last night at the shop. That makes five events this week! The event went extremely well. As far as I can tell, they all left very impressed with our signature event. They were all fathers of children in a local nursery school. I think it is called “Crestwood” and it sounds like it’s in Brentwood. We do quite a lot of these fundraisers. I believe it’s called a “party book.” The participants contribute a fixed amount to pay for their tickets, they pay our fees from those proceeds, and the school gets the rest. It works out great for everybody. We get paid our regular fees, they get a great event, the school benefits, and most importantly for us, we get to introduce new customers to the shop and forge new relationships.
Usually these events are for both parents but sometimes, like last night, it was fathers only. We’ve had women only nights before but this one was just for the dads. It was a small group of 12 (we can accommodate up to 26), and it seemed to me that this was the first time that most of them had met.
The social behavior was fascinating to me. It worked out that the first six men were there for several minutes before the next guests showed up. I took one look at the seating arrangement, leaned over to Jackie (she was working the event with me), and said “look how they’re sitting.” She asked what I was talking about. I said “not one of them is sitting next to anybody else.” They had naturally occupied every other seat. In fact, even though there was plenty of room between seats, the guys at the end actually slid their chairs around slightly to the corners of the table to get as far away from the others as possible!
I wondered if I do this too. I’m pretty sure the answer is “yes!” The first thing I thought of was public restrooms. If I’m in an airport or a movie theatre, somewhere where there are a big row of urinals, I would never take one directly next to another occupied stall unless I had no other choice. Why do we do this? It strikes me as very antisocial. Maybe it has something to do with machismo. Men like to be perceived as strong and independent. Maybe that explains it. Maybe most of us are secretly terrified that someone might think we’re gay. I don’t know if this behavior is a bad thing or a good thing, but it’s certainly interesting and pretty amusing. It might not even be specific to men but it seems to me that we’re more often guilty of this behavior than women seem to be.
I also have noticed that when people are forced to go outside their comfort zones and have no choice but to sit directly next to a stranger, they quite often wind up exchanging contact information by the end of the event. Not much makes me much” happier than to see relationships get forged at one of our public events. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they met their partner, husband, wife, best friend, or new business relationship at one of our events.
The lesson for me is to not be so afraid to meet knew people. We are all interesting in our own way and have unique stories to tell. As a recovering curmudgeon, I will force myself to sit next to strangers more often. I’ll probably get more dirty looks, but also meet some interesting new friends. Maybe not so much in public restrooms though, I’m talking to you, Larry Craig.
I hate blogs. I don’t post to Facebook as much as I should. I’m not very fluent in Twitterese. I logged into my LinkedIn account exactly one time, when the future Mrs. Andrew’s Cheese Shop posted a geeky video for me to laugh at. I am aware that other social media outlets exist. In fact, I am pretty sure that I have accounts on most of them, I even wrote down the passwords because I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (diagnosed). I don’t really care what my friends had for lunch. I certainly get irritated when people I have never met decide to share pictures of their favorite food. This is one of the many reasons why I very rarely check my Facebook feed.
For most of my life, I would be fairly classified as a curmudgeon. To be honest, I have also been very guilty of being lazy and not following through with things. I have always been terrible at keeping in touch with people that I care about. I have no idea why, but I will not return calls or contact friends and relatives for very long periods of time. Until about 10 years ago or so, I was also a pretty bad son. I live 3,000 miles from home (New York), and I would call my parents maybe once or twice a month. Fortunately, I realized that they were most likely not going to be around forever, and I decided to fix that behavior. My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in January of 1995 and was given a 25% chance of living another year. She beat it, beat the living crap out of it. I used to say that she’ll probably outlive the doctor who diagnosed her. Then my dad had an emergency triple bypass. I decided that the time to start paying attention to them was now. There may not be a tomorrow to put this off until. So, I talk to one or both of them almost daily now, even if I don’t really have the time or if I’m super-busy. I make time. They gave me life, I can call. That’s a good deal for me.
My mom is 72 years old and it seems unlikely that she will see 73. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, or my sister, or my dad. She was playing tennis last month and it seems likely that in a short time she won’t even know who we are because of this terrible, terrible thing attacking her brain (glioblastoma – I never heard that word before this and now I wish that I still didn’t).
Sometimes it takes tragedy to knock sense into people. For me, at the tender age of 49, it’s beginning to sink into my thick skull that the people I care about wont be around forever, and neither will I. I also realized that in spite of my personality flaws and failures, there are a lot of people who care about me! I generally don’t deserve that, but maybe I should think more about what they want and less about what’s convenient for me. Ive tried before to keep in touch, but I just suck at it. That’s not an excuse, there is no excuse. But I feel bad and would like to change this, so I guess that’s a start.
The other amazing thing that I have noticed is that people seem to want to know what I think about things. People who know me well also know that I like to rant on about almost anything. I guess I can now mention the good qualities about myself that I believe I possess (I can’t beat myself up forever). I’m intelligent, extremely passionate, I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I have an overdeveloped sense of fairness and justice, and I’m pretty witty and funny. In other words, I have a lot to say but I’m so bad at keeping in touch with people that there are few people to say it to. So I decided to start a blog. I’m not really sure if it’s just for me to get my thoughts out, or for the readers to be entertained or informed.
So, I will obviously talk a lot about my professional passions of cheese, beer, wine, charcuterie,…(hard to believe that I get paid for all of that), but I will also interject some personal items and whatever moves me to get excited about and rant about. Kind of like the Jazz version of a blog. I hate jazz, by the way. It’s one of those things that a lot of brilliant people love and I wish I did too, but I find it boring and self-indulgent. Expect a lot of strong opinions like that last one on this stream/blog/journal/emotional masturbation. If I cross a line, I will most likely apologize, but sometimes I won’t. That doesn’t make me or you a bad person. Sometimes you will disagree with me. I just hope to make you laugh, think, and maybe learn some things about specialty food/drink. Maybe we have some things in common and this will make you or me feel like we have some like-minded company about some things.
I look forward to sharing with you all and I promise to post these entries to all the social media sites. Endless thanks to MainBrainCreative.com for all the geeky technical stuff that is way outside my area of expertise and making it easy for me to do the easy parts.
Click on the picture below to read about a very unique proposal in which I got to play a small part.
She is a food editor and he crafted one of the most unique proposals I have ever seen! I got to live out my fantasy of being Neil Lane and both Robbins Brothers for a day — a fantasy I never knew I had!
A huge congratulations to Jon & Carey, and a big thank you for the shout-out in the article on Brides.com!
These days, it seems like everyone’s got some sort of dietary restriction — whether it’s something as simple as staying away from sweets because you’re trying to drop a few pounds to something as serious as celiac disease, we’re all watching what we eat.
But amid all of this hyper vigilance, I’ve got some good news for the lactose intolerance sufferers out there: YOU CAN EAT CHEESE!!!! And all it takes is one simple step — look at the nutrition label!
Since lactose is the sugar found in milk, the fewer grams of sugar on the label, the better. Compare, for example, the 0.2 grams in cheddar cheese versus the 6 grams in feta. An easy way to check for lactose in cheese is to look at the Nutrition Facts under “Sugar.” Since the sugar in cheese is lactose, you can easily see how much lactose the cheese contains. If the sugar is listed as zero, then the cheese contains no more than half a gram of lactose per ounce. Compare to 12 grams of lactose in an 8 ounce glass of milk.
Cheese with trace levels (less than 0.5 gram lactose):
Naturally aged cheese (such as Cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss) can be digested by many people with lactose intolerance. During the cheese making process, much of the lactose is drained off with the whey (the liquid portion). The small amount that remains in the curd becomes lactic acid during the aging process of the cheese. Mere trace amounts of lactose remain.
Cheese with low levels (less than 5 grams lactose):
Fresh unripened cheese (such as mozzarella, cream cheese and ricotta) are not aged. Only part of the lactose that remains in the curd has a chance to convert to lactic acid. Cottage Cheese, also a fresh unripened cheese, generally has additional milk or cream mixed with the curd. Therefore, fresh cheeses contain more lactose than aged cheeses.
Processed cheese foods and cheese spreads are made by melting natural cheese to stop the aging process and then adding other ingredients, including whey or milk. Thus, cheese foods and cheese spreads do contain levels of lactose that may make you, well, intolerant.
So look for aged, rather than younger cheeses, and sugar under 5 grams per serving. Here’s another rule of thumb: The higher the fat content, usually the lower the lactose levels. If you find that you still feel bloated, just try goat or sheep’s milk cheeses instead.
6 Top Goat and Sheep’s Milk Cheeses
Manchego “It’s a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese that gets harder, nuttier, and sharper as it ages. I like a one year-aged Manchego but it’s a personal preference. For a softer flavor, go for a young Manchego. Taste around to find a flavor, brand, or age profile that you like.”
Goat Gouda “It’s an aged goat cheese that’s totally different from the fresh crumbly kind you know from salads. Four-, five-, and six-month aged versions are crowd friendly but a one-year is especially good. It gets hard, dense, and really crystalized with almost a caramel flavor.”
Roquefort “My favorite brand of this blue cheese made of sheep’s milk is Carles. There are only seven producers of Roquefort and it’s a highly regulated cheese, so a cheese shop will usually carry only one brand and you probably won’t be able to comparison shop. Roquefort can have a really aggressive, almost nail-polish-remover quality, so the trick is having a flavor that is balanced with the right amount of saltiness. Carles’s flavor is round, sweet, and salty–so you can eat a lot of it even though it’s intensely flavored.”
Young Goat Cheeses “Vermont Creamery makes a fantastic variety with different rinds. If you’re starting out, try the Coupole. It’s yellowy in color with a dry, dense, almost flaky texture, and nutty, mellow flavor. For goat cheese 201, go for Bonne Bouche, a small 6-oz round that has an ash rind, and a very creamy, almost liquid-like-texture, and an herbaceous flavor.”
Feta “Traditional feta from Greece is made with a blend of goat and sheep’s milk but anyone can make a cheese and call it feta, so you need to make sure that you get it from a reliable source. One brand to look for that’s pretty widely available in supermarkets is MT Vikos Feta.”
Pecorino “Any cheese labeled ‘pecorino’ will always be made of sheep’s milk. The name means ‘little sheep’ in Italian. Pecorino comes in a huge range–it can be soft, super hard and aged, or really delicate and mild. If you’re up for an adventure, taste as many Pecorino cheeses as you can–it’s a fun way to learn about sheep cheese throughout Italy, and it’s a great journey to discover what style of pecorino you like best.”
And most of all, enjoy your cheese, no matter what the form!
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