As I sit here, thousands of miles away from the civilised world, nibbling on my last piece of Selles-sur-Cher cheese that I have managed to smuggle into this country, I wonder why I am only one of a select few in this world that has come to appreciate this wonderful, nutritionally dense dairy product.
I recall my fascination with cheese as a child, it being one of the few foods that I have loved right into adulthood. The morning breakfast was generally continental, a cheese, either French, English, Swiss or German formed the centrepiece of an otherwise uninspired spread, but that one cheese was sufficient to elevate the concept of breakfast from a meal that simply provided sustenance for the day’s activities to a meal that supplied me with the courage to endure another day in India as I counted down the hours till my next international trip. Every overseas trip ended with a frenzy of shopping activity, stocking cheeses and chocolates to last the school term in Bombay.
The cheeses I would consume varied regularly, sometimes it could be as mild as a Chèvre or Brie de Meaux, moderate like a Cheddar or Cambozola or sometimes as pungent as an (unpasteurized) Roquefort or Camembert. The excitement of not knowing what was available was one of the few things that could get me out of bed in the early hours of the morning. All of these wonderful cheeses and many more, are illegal to import into many countries, including India. Thus, my affinity for cheese started at a tender young age, and, for better or for worse, the mental association between the odour of ammonia, stinky feet and delicious cheese had been made.
The next stage of my life took me to boarding school in England, here, the food was so despicable that I refused to eat any quantity greater than that absolutely essential for my survival. Following this, my travels have taken me all across the globe and I have experienced the best of cheeses in many countries. It has also helped me determine which countries I could never live in.
One incident worth remembering is when I was in Australia. I was feeling ‘homesick’ and craving a nice piece of cheese. At the supermarket, I saw a President Camembert (not the best but generally considered to be familiar and adequate by me; unfortunately it is no longer made using unpasteurised milk). Thinking I struck gold, I purchased a box of it and some crackers (merely for convenience, crackers are generally far too English for me, prefer bread). I returned to my accommodation, closed the windows and opened the box, waiting for that strong whiff of rotting cauliflower and that ammonia to hit my nostrils, and I waited and waited and waited. Finally, I dug my nose into it and there wasn’t the faintest hint of Camembert, I turn it over and it says made in Australia. This abomination of Camembert was an imposter masquerading under the President Camembert branding. At that moment, I brushed the cheese aside, it being a poignant reminder of how far away I was from all I love.
With just one little box of Langres left before I’m out of cheese, I remember that time in Australia, that unshakable sinking feeling. The wonderful taste of unpasteurized cheese is worth the small chance of death by Listeria that may result from contamination. The public should be offered the choice to consume what they feel like and not have governments dictate what they can and cannot eat.