This is not the first time I have had an encounter with Jasper Hill Farms’ Bayley Hazen Blue cheese.
Earlier today our youngest and I went to Whole Foods in Portland. My thinking was that, with three of us at home now instead of five, it would be cheaper to do the grocery shopping and we could splurge a little. Wrong. Wrong, but beside the point. After wending our way past the produce (selecting a half dozen of the black plums at 99 cents a pound), past the seafood, and butcher shop (fresh and smoked goodies notwithstanding, but for the gargantuan turkey thigh), we succumbed to the cheese department. A bit of Gruyere, some domestic Gruyere-style cheese as a comparison, a little Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a little piece of Jasper Hill Farms’ Bayley Hazen Blue, and we were headed for the exit.
After dinner I took the Bayley Hazen Blue out of the fridge, trimmed it, put it on a little plate, and let it come to room temperature. This, and one taste, is all it took to transport me 48 miles and almost as many years ago to a dairy farm in North Monmouth, Maine. My dad’s aunt and her husband, a first-generation Polish-American, lived forty-five minutes away. Every so often we’d go up to visit. And every so often my dad, Uncle Teddy (Tadeus), and I would walk a hundred yards up the hill to the barn. I still remember the sweet smell of the barn, the placid, friendly cows taking the hay from my timid, little hand. I remember standing in the milk room, redolent with the smells of the barn, while my dad and my uncle talked about things incomprehensible to a seven-year old.
All it took was a bit of cheese. Dali*, eat your heart out.
*Proust, actually. I was going off the title to this post, but it really is more Proustian in nature.