Saturday 10 December 2016


I'm on the last chapter /section of Michael Pollan's Cooked. He has some interesting things to say about cheese  a nun called Sister Noëlla who lives in Connecticut and makes a cheese called Bethlehem which is more or less the same as the Auvergne's Saint-Nectaire.  If you don't want to read the book - and it's taken me a month of elapsed time - you can hear Pollan reading some of the juicier excerpts at a foodie conference. Over the weekend, I as hanging out with Dau.II and her bloke and her grandfather Pat the Salt. We all got fed up with the TV rather quickly and Dau.II suggested we watch an episode of the TV series based upon Cooked that is available on Netflix: here's the trailer. The smiley face of Sister Noëlla makes a brief appearance. The films - we saw 1.25 of them and fell asleep over another (right after dins) - are gorgeous and complementary to the book rather than a précis of the text. The series has clearly been made in the tradition of David Attenborough - high  production values and tight editting so that you feel you're getting a mouthful of executive summary.

Pollan addresses a modern foodie dilemma: we are moving on from a century of Pasteurisation into a post-Pasteurian world where 'this milk is RAW' is taken to be highly complementary . . . and still rare. We gave up on raw milk 100 years ago because it was shown to transmit typhoid Salmonella typhi and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These germs were susceptible to the brief heating and rapid cooling process invented by Louis Pasteur. The trouble with using Pasteurised milk to make cheese is that you have to employ a food-engineer add the Lactobacillus that are an essential part of the process. Traditional cheese-makers never bother[ed] with that - the bacteria and fungi just fell from the roof of the cave or came out from under the fingernails of the cheese-maker. Indeed, before Pasteur, they didn't even know that microbes were involved in the miraculous transformation. Needless to say, Sister Noëlla makes her cheese [Like St.Nectaire above R] in the traditional way a bit like I make sourdough bread. The wooden vat she uses is never washed - just rinsed - and has a slick white interior. There will be billions of bacteria on this surface ready to go forth and multiply as soon as warm milk is added.

Every year people die from eating unPasteurised cheese - it's the Listeria stupid - but I don't think that's sufficient reason to ban the stuff. Far more people die each year in automobiles and nobody is seriously suggesting these pleasure vehicles should be forbidden. Apparently Sister Noëlla saw off the local Food Feds by adding E.coli to a) her wooden barrel and b) a 'clean' culture of Pasteurised milk in a stainless steel vat. The latter was far, far more coliform than her stuff, because her stuff was a thriving mutually supportive community that could together resist attack from the interloping Black Hats. Vive le fromage, vive la microbiome, vive la France.

No comments:

Post a Comment