This week, it’s been back to work for Madame F. — I teach creative writing when I’m not living the cheese lifestyle. Of course, the cheese lifestyle always comes with me, in wedges and parcels. And this week I kept the summer alive by snacking on a stash of delicacies culled from my July junket to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival.
Forgive me, didn’t I tell you about the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival? Think of Lillith Fair (long hairs, sunflowers), but add cheese and gorgeous Lake Champlain. I can’t think of a more delicious, more pastoral scene than hanging out at Shelburne Farms for a day of dairy festivities. It may be the loveliest cheese event I’ve ever attended.
Here, let me share a bit of lunchbox reverie, inspired by that weekend, via the pantry items I collected:
I packed this twee little cheese that looks like it’s covered in mole skin. It’s made by an even more twee couple, Twig Farm’s Michael Lee and Emily Sunderman, who are quietly adorable (and probably former English majors). This raw-milk beauty is so sweetly nutty, it swept me right out of my chair and into Narnia.
Square Goat caught my eye at the Cheesemakers Festival because of its shape — it looked like a seat cushion with a center-set button. The shape comes from wrapping and tying this cheese in cloth, like a bunting. Doesn’t that fuzzy, pewter-colored rind make you shiver with pleasure? I want to make it into a sweater.
I took some Fat Toad Farm goat caramel to work and stashed it in my filing cabinet. When no one was looking, I swirled it into coffee, drizzled it onto aged Gouda and apples, and even used it to seal envelopes.
One of the highlights of visiting Vermont was stopping at Fat Toad to meet the goats.
My sweet tooth needed salt, so I did the sensible thing and packed a log of Vermont Creamery cultured butter. I tucked it way way back in the mini fridge, and while my colleagues trooped off to Cosi, I whipped up some cucumber sandwiches behind one of my book shelves. With a little garden mint, I was living the life of a Jane Austen character without even trying. Thank goodness I keep a stack of monogrammed handkerchiefs in my pencil drawer.
The lethargy set in, so I skipped the dairy and packed a jar of Switchel, my new favorite non-alchoholic beverage. Made from a mixture of apple cider vinegar, ginger, molasses, and Vermont maple syrup, it’s the best stomach soother I’ve found. And, to the undiscerning English major peering through my office window, it looks like moonshine.
I couldn’t wait to sip Barr Hill Gin on the roof, staring out across the tree tops and church spires toward Vermont, where I could picture so many fine cheeses ripening in cellars and caves.
As I look toward October (can it be?), I am dreaming of bark-bound rounds of Winnimere and burly Vermont Cheddars. I feel inspired to host a Vermont Cheddar tasting like the one I attended at the festival, where I was struck by how many different flavors I could discern — grapefruit, browned butter, hay, mushrooms, caramel, clay. Mmmm, pure poetry.
The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is an annual event. I highly recommend that you mark your calendar for next July. Not only will you sample some exquisite cheeses, you’ll get to drive through stunning countryside dotted with bearded characters (only some of whom are goats).