In our great age of productivity, I believe it is important to sit back and slow ourselves down so that we see the world. The Amish do this by using horses instead of tractors; it slows their pace and forces a thoughtfulness to the work that could easily be lost. The speechwriter who wrote Bill Clinton’s apology to the nation after it became clear that Clinton had lied, was insistent on using paper and pen and then translating into computer processor. He said in an interview that this connection to the words was critical to his creative dexterity and he didn’t trust his word processor as an aid to such a great work as a speech from a president to the people.
As I get older as a cheesemaker I am awed by milk. I love its eccentric nature and the vagaries and difficulties of handling it. Recently I used an old Russian recipe to make “farmers cheese.” It was so simple, and the cheese, though humble, was delightful. What was most lovely about it was the simplicity: milk from the animal is simply left to cool and naturally ferment until a curd separates from the whey, about 24 hours, then it is strained and salted for use.
Modern cheesemaking has perfected many things, but it has not been too creative; mostly it has manipulated old ways and old thoughts into consistency. The thousands of styles of cheese that exist are the creative work of men and women whose lives were swallowed into the simple daily rhythms of living with ruminants, living by the seasons and the rainfall, and working to make their lives more lovely in a thousand simple ways. Their ability to sense texture, acid, and moisture at the tip of their fingers was godlike to those of us who were taught to use pH meters, scales, and electronic measurement as our first principles. And while I am confident we are closing in on more consistent cheese, I wonder sometimes about the undeniable genius of simpler times when the styles were born.
In light of this we are year by year seeking to listen to our milk. Our Cloudydale has been altered this fall to honor what we thought the style was telling us. Next time you try it, I think you will find it more balanced in flavor with less heavy barnyard notes and more creamy flavor. The texture of the center should still be firm and cake-like but the exterior should develop a lovely gooey creamline which gently deepens but is not runny. We hope that through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and as the winter lingers, you will join us in listening to milk and experiencing its eccentric character. We also hope for the same in your life… take time to step away from the computer and indulge your creative abilities to the ends of hospitality, creativity and of the creation of thoughts, words and memories too important do quickly.