Let’s play a game. I’ll give you the adjective, you tell me the first noun that pops into your head: unrequited; scarlet; artisanal. You are correct if you answered: love; letter; cheese. (Yes, there are correct answers in this game and yes, this post will be my love letter to cheese).

The author, at left, in a Wisconsin cheese hat (much to the chagrin of her Minnesota Vikings brethren)

I’ve had meals the world over consisting of not much more than cheese. I flew to meet a friend in Milwaukee, where we found an incredible beer-and-cheese restaurant. Wisconsin specializes in dairy products and beer (I could make fun of the fact that they’ve also topped the nation’s obesity list, but now that I’m dating a Wisconsinite I’ll refrain…oops, too late) so we delighted over our Milwaukee microbrews and local cheddars. It was a perfect dinner.

While visiting a friend in Paris, we dined at many fine French restaurants before deciding that all we really needed was cheese and wine. We bought a baguette, a bottle of red, and several packages of cheese so fine they’re illegal to import into the US. We took our picnic to a pedestrian bridge right by the Louvre that is inhabited every night by Parisian hipsters, all with their own 40s and guitars and dreadlocks and roller skates.

Eating cheese on a Parisian bridge like a true hipster

And, when spending a week with a British family in London, I was thrilled to find that dessert every night was a board of select cheeses and bowls of fruit sprinkled liberally with sugar. (Picture an elderly British gentleman sitting back in his chair and exclaiming, “Well, dear, shall we bring out the cheese board, then?”)

There is an art to cheese making, which you know if you’ve ever read any of Brian Jacque’s Redwall series, and which I had the unexpected pleasure of learning just before college graduation. I was sitting on my front porch on a beautiful Saturday when a friend emerged from our house and asked me to bike to Dartmouth’s organic farm with her. The fact that I had never been there in my four years was a source of shame to me, so I immediately agreed (and then begged around the house to borrow a bike).

We chose an excellent time to arrive, as student workers were just about to start a mozzarella demonstration. We were given milk, rennet, citric acid, and a pot to heat it all up. After letting it set, we cut the curds up, strained out the whey with a cheesecloth, and added salt. We were all amazed at how tiny a ball of mozzarella emerged from two gallons of milk. I was also amazed at how good our cheese tasted. We ate our cheese that afternoon with bread baked fresh at the farm and water from our Nalgenes. And you know what? It was perfect.

Excuse me for a minute, I’m going to go refill my wine glass and slice some cheese…