Artisan Cheese and Twinkies

You’ll be happy to know that the batch of cheese I’m working on this morning is turning out much better than what I made on Sunday.

Homemade cheese -- photo courtesy of Steve Henderson Fine Art

Homemade cheese — photo courtesy of Steve Henderson Fine Art

I know. I didn’t tell you about Sunday’s failure because I didn’t want to ruin your day the way the cheese had the potential to ruin mine. I say “potential,” because any time you make anything at home — cheese, bread, soup, cookies, Kombucha — you expect variables.

I’m not Kraft. Or General Mills. Or Wonder Bread.

Which is good, because while it means that I don’t have a clinically sterile industrial kitchen that puts out the exact same product, time after time after time, what I make and bake and create doesn’t taste like what comes out of those clinically sterile industrial kitchens.

You may not believe this, but it took me years to figure this out, and that only because a wise woman who was married to a Frenchman and who had lived in Europe (why is it that people who live in Europe know so much more about good food than Americans do? Is it because they eat it?) told me this, about cheese:

“In Europe, each home’s cheese is unique to that home and its cheese maker. Nobody expects their cheese, or their bread, to taste like anyone else’s, and they celebrate the uniqueness of each craft person’s creation.”

Food, like people, is unique. We can celebrate this. Mesa Walk, available as a signed, limited edition print through Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Food, like people, is unique. We can celebrate this. Mesa Walk, available as a signed, limited edition print through Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Here in America we consider food a success when it looks, and tastes, like what we could buy in the store. We agonize because our Twinkies don’t look like the real thing, (and no, I have never tried to make a Twinkie at home).

Elsewhere, food is considered successful when it tastes good. How odd.

No, actually what’s odd is that so many of us consider mass produced food products, often made from inferior ingredients compensated by sugar, fat, salt, and artificial flavorings, to be real, while what we create in our kitchens, with our time, our hands, our labor, and our love, to be lacking somehow.

And while it’s true that some people aren’t the best cooks in the world (I’ve eaten at their houses; have you?), as long as a person is one step above truly dreadful, they can generally create, with decent quality ingredients, something as palatable as the stuff from a can or a box.

And if they’re two or more steps above dreadful, and the closer they approach really darn good, they turn eating from a daily task to an event. That’s what eating is in our household, with Tired of Being Youngest and her culinary school practice sessions in our kitchen, and with me — 40 years in the kitchen and counting, fresh produce from the Norwegian Artist’s garden, eggs from the chicken, and milk from the goats — looks like.

Goats provide wonderful milk for making artisan cheese. Fenceline Encounter by Steve Henderson.

Goats provide wonderful milk for making artisan cheese. Fenceline Encounter by Steve Henderson.

You know, you may be a really darn good cook, only you don’t know it yet. Pick up some quality ingredients — fresh produce, artisan cheese, farm fresh eggs, organic butter — and scrambled eggs will be transformed from a pale, quivering mass of sliced product on your plate, slathered with ketchup to disguise the texture, to a simple, yet sublime meal.

To start with, make it easier on yourself by creating something that isn’t readily recognizable as a store product — in other words, don’t try to bake Twinkies. You can’t get ahold of Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sodium Caseinate, or Mono and Diglycerides anyway — and, um, do you really want to?

Someday, you may get so excited about quality ingredients and the food you can make from them that you’ll track down a goat so that you can get fresh milk from which to make your own artisan cheese.

Or not.

But when you make your own food, in your own kitchen, you connect with thousands of years of the human experience, most of which has been lived beneficially and well without Twinkies, yellow/orange macaroni and cheese, frozen orange chicken in a bag, or bread product that, when you squish it into a ball shape, it stays that way.

And bounces.

In addition to finding Steve’s original fine art paintingssigned, limited edition prints and inspirational posters on the Steve Henderson Fine Art website, you can find open edition prints of his work at Great Big Canvas and Light in the Box.


About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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