One of my favorite moments selling cheese at Formaggio Kitchen was quite unexpected. It was the end of a long day of helping the regular customers. As usual, I waxed poetic about cheeses and accouterments so people would buy a half pound instead of a quarter. And as usual, during the last fifteen minutes of the open shop, I hurried to close up, in the hopes of leaving early, for once.
It was then I heard the ring of the opening and closing door. I saw a wiry man with black-grey hair walk around the corner to the cheese counter. I muttered under my breath, "Just my luck."
He stroked his angular jaw and chin as his small, dark eyes scanned over the cheese selection. He looked determined.
I cleared my throat, and stepped from behind the tower of cheese to try to help him as quickly as possible.
"Is there something particular you're looking for?"
The man gave me a side glance and paused. He resumed his assessment of the cheeses while replying, "Yes, I am looking to purchase a couple of wheels of cheese that will keep well in a cool basement, without refrigeration."
My cheese nerd-mind-light-bulb turned on. I knew exactly how to help him: I suggested dense, low moisture cheese, like a small wheel of Pecorino Ginepro or Pecorino Rosso. Perhaps a fuzzy french tomme would do as well. It would depend how quickly he would eat it. I immediately imagined he was a man who had a cheese cellar right next to his wine cellar in the basement, and I got excited. His next words, however, proved my assumptions wrong.
Dense cheeses, like this Mimolette, store for longer periods of time out of refrigeration.
The corners of his mouth turned upward. He seemed to be warming up to my willingness to help his request. So he said, "Well, we most likely won't have electricity in the next few months, since Jesus is coming soon. So I need these cheeses to last as long as possible. Now, what do you recommend for the children's pasta?"
My stomach did a small flip of nervousness. Something wasn't quite right with this man. I imagined him gathering the cult, perhaps 4 or 5 families who all agreed on the world's end date, and reassuring them all that despite Armageddon or the Apocalypse or whatever, they would eat well for years to come. I couldn't help but wonder why the rest of us hadn't gotten the End of the World Memo. If it did indeed happen while I was at work, at least I'd have a cave full of cheese.
In the end, he took my advice on two cheeses, Pecorino Ginepro and Rosso. His last choice was somewhat of a sore disappointment: Tomme Geante, a semi-soft cow's milk cheese with a delicate natural rind. I worried as to if it would last more than 3 months before mites started eating their way through the rind and into the paste. People deserve the best for their buck, even if, or maybe especially if, it's the end of the world.
Queso Invierno, by Vermonth Shepherd, is another perfect natural rind style with a hard rind.
The next time you go to purchase a cheese, don't ask yourself: What cheese would I bring to a desert island?
Instead ask yourself, What cheese would I buy for the Apocalypse?