My boss had recommended Houston Dairymaids, the city’s only cheese shop, located in a mostly Mexican neighborhood. Eighty percent of their business is dealing wholesale to restaurants, the clerk informed me, but their retail outlet is designed to inspire loyalty among Houston’s caseophiles. They greet customers with an orientation session, consisting of six cheeses and a brief lecture on each. I immediately had my eye on the Stilton, a product of Vermont, but David said no dice. We settled on two raw-milk cheeses: Granbury Gold, a Texas creation from cow’s milk, and a faultless San Andreas of sheep’s milk, made in California. We sampled olives and various exotic and expensive crackers (I should have brought Tupperware), passed on the wine, and added two pretzel buns to the take.
G.K. Chesterton was wrong when he declared: “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” The Canadian furniture-maker James McIntyre (1827-1906) built a poetic career based on the celebration of coagulated milk protein. Among his effusions is “Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds.” Less circumscribed in subject matter than McIntyre was Shakespeare. The word shows up thirteen times in the plays, often modified by “toasted.” Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor gets one of the best: “Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he / transform me to a piece of cheese.”