MILLIE: Karla and I are certified cheese lovers.
Cheese is a mainstay in all our family gatherings. I remember my dad would always end his meal with a bit of cheese. Dad's preferred cheeses were the sharp and pungent ones. He was quite fond of blue cheese, bloomy rinds, and even sharp or smoky cheddar.
One of his favorites was cougar, a specialty cheese not found in cheese shops but we somehow, always managed to have in our ref forever!
Thus, Karla grew up to be a cheese lover like no other, so that even our Yorkies and their puppies are all named after cheese: Manchego, Brie, Feta, Gouda, Mozza (for mozzarella), Raclette, Fontina, and Parmi (for parmesan).
Karla was such an avid cheese fan that she even started a business of her own in 2016 called La Petite Fromagerie, which started a real cheese trend! She even organized cheese and wine pairing webinars during the lockdown last year to keep herself busy.
When Karla was a toddler, I came home from a trip with a unique cheese for my dad called Tête de Moine, translated as monk's head cheese. It came with a special device called a girolle.
KARLA: Tête de Moine is a natural rind, semi-hard cheese that has been aged for at least two and a half months. It literally means “monk’s head,” relating to how monks would shave the tops of their heads.
In the 12th century, Tête de Moine was invented by the monks of Bellelay Abbey in the Bernese Jura of Switzerland, and was used as currency to pay for their annual rent on their properties. The abbey is now a historic monument and the dairy is a cheese museum situated in the barn of the old monastery.
Every month, I send La Petite Fromagerie’s cheese subscribers three new cheeses to try and learn about. Together with the package are tasting notes with history or trivia about the featured cheeses, or the fromageries and creameries that produce them.
For this March, I included Tête de Moine in the offerings and what a treat it was. I found the girolle my mom gave to Lolo Joe and used it to scrape the rosettes for our cheese subscribers. The experience (and smell) reminded me so much of my grandfather and my childhood.
When I was a kid, I would hang around and play in my lolo’s office and would always be fascinated with the girolle. It would be on display on top of a cabinet together with his pipes. I used to call it the “wind-wind cheese.” With an empty girolle, I would pretend to scrape the cheese and eat it.
My Lolo Joe suffered from Atari-ritis (joke!) from playing Atari video games with a joystick, which made it difficult for him to put pressure on his grip or wrists.
I just learned this week that he would actually let me wind the girolle for him. I would operate it with such ease and produce thinly shaved cheese rosettes for the family to enjoy. To me, the “wind-wind cheese” was an expensive toy I could only play with when lolo said so.
MILLIE: I watched as Karla was packing up her cheese subscription boxes to be dispatched for delivery the other day. While she wasn’t looking, I managed to snatch a bit of the Tête de Moine cheese as my mouth was already salivating. I carefully placed it on top of my breakfast ensaymada and managed to take a snapshot before I devoured it!
That was a cheeky thing to do, but I was quite sure Karla wouldn’t mind as she always gives me bits and pieces of her leftover cheeses and makes me try all the new ones. We journey together as we experience, learn and savor new cheese discoveries to delight our palates and share with others.
Banner photo from: https://www.fromagesdesuisse.fr/