Celebrating family, memories and milestones with cheese

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By: Rachel Shenk

1f35aec2-a79b-4b55-8296-71d032bba899I am my father’s daughter. That means that I work hard every day, make interesting connections with people and with ideas, laugh a lot and…love cheese.

Just this past weekend, I had to remember my dad. We were all gathered as a family — as many of us as could make the trip — to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. We hosted 20-some people in our small house. With perfect weather, we were able to spread outside and spend some good moments together. And, of course, we had cheese.

As a traveler, cheese is one of the first things I buy when I get to a town.

My brother, who lives in Wisconsin, brought a new variety that I had never tasted: Bella Vitano Gold. When I took that first bite, I groaned and stomped my foot. My sister asked me if that meant that it was good or bad. “Delicious,” I said. It tasted like a rich Parmesan, with a creamy, buttery finish.

Growing up, my mother often made soup for supper and with it always came the bread and the cheese. The table was set with soup bowls, soup spoons, knives and a wooden board on the left side for our cheese and bread. The boards had a stripe of color on the edge and as siblings, we would always make sure to get the color we wanted.

Sometimes, as I would unwrap the cheese in the kitchen to get it ready for the table, my father would sidle up beside me, knife in hand, and say,”That cheese looks a little crooked. Let me straighten it.” And with that, he would slice a small piece off and pop it in his mouth. I learned very quickly how I could also straighten the cheese!

“That cheese looks a little crooked. Let me straighten it.”

In all those years living in Belgium, I never found a cheese I didn’t like. From the alps of Switzerland or the flatlands of Holland, from the cheese caves of Belgian monks or the farms of France, from the hills of Italy or the grasslands of Norway, I discovered that I could always make a meal if I had cheese and bread.

As a traveler, cheese is one of the first things I buy when I get to a town. I’m always looking for the local variety which carries with it the flavour of the landscape where it is made. And when summer comes around, cheese and bread make a simple meal that won’t heat up the house. Add some wine and you are set.

These days, I make bread with a passion. But I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons I love mixing, kneading, shaping and baking each loaf is because I imagine how each one will taste, fresh out of the oven with just the right cheese.

This recipe comes from my days in Barcelona. It is a sandwich you can find there.

Pan Amb Tomaquet

  1. Take two slices of sourdough bread or half of a baguette.
  2. Rub with a clove or two of garlic, cut in half.
  3. Smear with a slice or two of tomato, leaving the residue on the bread.
  4. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
  5. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about five minutes or just until slightly crisp.
  6. Top with slices of Manchego cheese.
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