It was day 3 in Spain that I was ruined.
My palate, precisely. Well… maybe it was just my standards that changed. My palate had just not be used properly before. I remember the moment it all changed. John and I were on the hunt for an apartment and had exhausted our online resources. We were going to hit the pavement to find our new life, starting with a swinging European flat. Before we set off with heads craned up looking for “se renta” signs in the windows of apartments we couldn’t afford, we decided to get some grub at a café near our hostel, located in the heart of Madrid – Puerta del Sol. I ordered a coffee with milk. Simple enough. It came in a dainty porcelain cup atop a small, shiny saucer etched with the brand name of the coffee.
All of life on God’s green Earth flashed before my mind’s eye.
F@#*! This is the BEST DAMN COFFEE I’ve ever had. I quite literally still have dreams about that moment, lazily drinking perfectly crafted Spanish café con leche caliente and watching the city’s inhabitants float along beside me. I had been a barista for two years. I thought I knew coffee.
I KNEW NOTHING.
Repeat this moment countless times. This happened nearly every day for a long time as I munched through perfect baguettes, savored fluffy tortilla Española, sipped on tangy ciders and marveled at the miracle of Spanish ham. And then cheese happened to me. Goat, emmental, cheddars, brie, gouda, dolloped with fruit, sprinkled with nuts, coated in herbs. CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE!
America has failed us. We are cheese illiterate. The good stuff is being kept across the pond. It must be a conspiracy.
One day I went to the tourist market to salivate over fancy charcuterie and generous pours of Spanish reds. I elbowed my way through the crowd of unaffected Spaniards and mouth-agape Asian tourists and saw a prophet dressed in white – chef whites to be precise. It was the cheese god. His perfect Spanish was even better than his amazing English, but of course, this fancy fromage pusher was French. Of course. He had a case of crostinis dressed with various cheeses, veggies and fruits for three euros each. The one that caught my eye was a simple oval bruschetta with a slice of tomato, a dollop of oozy white mozzarella burrata, a healthy splash of olive oil and a large deep forest green basil leaf. OOF. *a drip of sweat falls on the keyboard*
Since I left Spain I have been overcome with cheese ennui – day dreaming of my French dios de queso and wanting to find anything that comes close to the delicious things I took for granted in that palate wrecking country! Which leads me to my foray into cheese making, specifically homemade mozzarella.
I’ll skip to the point here. Let me show you what I Googled after my attempt at being a prairie woman.
A few people told me the same thing happened to them. In addition to being green on the cheese making seas, I didn’t have a thermometer (which is apparently very important) and I didn’t have enough citric acid (which helps the cheese curd, so…yeah).
I’ll let the pics do the talking.
Step one: Pour a whole gallon of milk into a pot. You’re not doing it right unless it feels like anarchy.
Step two: After adding stuff and stirring and getting anxious, the milk starts to curdle. This should make you feel dirty.
Step Three: Separate curds from whey (This is not just a nursery rhyme. Ms. Muffet was a foodie before you had to wait in line for two hours in anticipation of a mediocre hipster brunch).
Step four: Be slightly disappointed at the fact the 1 gallon of milk makes two cups of cheese. Eat dinner at 10 PM cause this took too long.
Dinner number two was homemade pizza. Not too shabby.