02 February, 2010


This post is less about Turkiye than it is about Amerika. That's how they spell it here, and somehow the K carries with it a darker intonation, as if Amerika isn't always the good guy on the global stage. My screenwriting instructor, a Canadian expatriate, mentioned a film project she had worked on, 'The Arrow' - a docudrama about a Canadian aircraft years ahead of its time in 1958. Theory had it the Americans scuttled the project to preserve their own supremacy in aerospace. "So Canada and Turkiye have something in common when it comes to being paranoid about American intentions," she said. But i digress; this post has nothing to do with aerospace, unless by the roundabout path of Wallace and Gromit's "Grand Day Out".

This post is about peynir (cheese). And how much America sucks at cheese. Back in November i had the pleasure of accompanying researchers, farmers, millers, and bakers from the Northeast Organic Bread Wheat Project on an overnight trip to observe Quebec's organic wheat system. One of the sites we visited was perhaps the best example of integrated organic, value-added agriculture i have ever seen: Fromagerie Au Gre Des Champs. After a tour of the 33 swiss brown cow operation, we observed the artisanal cheesemaking process, guided by Stefan, a microbiologist from nearby Montreal who had found his calling in the applied microbiology of the cheese shop. The microorganisms cows consume with summer pasture, he explained, are different from those consumed in winter pasture, and thus summer and winter cheeses are different. And oh, that cheese. To quote Wallace himself: it was "like no cheese i've ever tasted!" I brought home wedges of Monnoir (a rinded, soft cheese), and the signature Au Gre Des Champs.

Now, Turkish cheese is nothing like the wheels of Fromagerie Au Gre Des Champs. It's white, mostly, softer, crumbly. But don't think for a second that it's feta. I don't know the names of any of them, but in Real, which is, mind you, the local answer to WalMart, the cheese case stretched for ten meters with different local flavors. I bought one, and ate slices of it with a breakfast of eggs, tomato, and cucumber slices. And the only thing i could think was - this is so much better than American cheese. It's a shame good old Amerika is such a cheese-impoverished place.