Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Grate Expectations

The way our table was set while growing up, in the middle of it there was salt, there were napkins, and there was a cheese grater. It took the place that pepper mills take at other tables.

We put cheese in our soup. Cheese on rice. Cheese on salad. Cheese on arepas. Cheese on hot chocolate. Pretty much cheese on anything.

I didn't know this wasn't the way the rest of the world ate. I assumed everyone sat down to eat with a cheese grater handy.

When I was seventeen, I moved away from Barranquilla to Bogotá for school and I started missing the cheese. In Barranquilla you can buy fresh, farm made, white cheese pretty much anywhere. It's a non-pasteurized, hard, white cheese made in small batches. Salty. Highly grateable. Not as easily found in Bogotá.

It's because of the cattle. In the northern coast of Colombia - where Barranquilla is - you find mostly Zebu. They are brown, skinny, humped cows. Not very photogenic, but it's a type of cattle that does well in hot, humid weather and produces a high protein milk.

Near Bogotá, in the high mountains, you find more of the pretty black and white Holstein cattle with the smooth back. Those are the ones that get plush toys made in their likeness. Nice creamy cheese comes out of that milk. Good on crackers, good melting points. Not good for grating.

Not good for French toast.

I was eighteen before I found out that French toast was supposed to be sweet and that cheese was not the main ingredient. One of these days I'll share my French Toast recipe with you. It comes out more like Welsh Rarebit than what most of you would call French Toast and it's delicious. It's what I had for dinner last night.

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