Say Cheese: Have Cheddar, Will Travel
I adore road trips. In general I much prefer driving to flying. For one thing, I can keep to my own schedule. For another, I get to choose what food will be served.
On car trips, I’ve always packed my own meals. I got that habit from my Italian mother, who even decades ago could not abide rest-stop fare and refused to set foot in fast-food restaurants. She always made sandwiches, filling good Italian rolls with prosciutto and mozzarella, or homemade meatloaf, or frittata. There was always fresh fruit to accompany the sandwiches — grapes or apples — plus a bit of chocolate for something sweet, and usually one or two kinds of cheese to snack on.
It’s essentially the same menu that I packed the other day when we backed out of our driveway and headed north toward Michigan, where we spend part of every August. In the little plug-in car refrigerator that my brother-in-law had generously loaned us were four prosciutto-and-mozzarella sandwiches (some with tomato, some without); cherries and grapes; some chocolate caramels; and what I like to refer to as “traveling cheese.”
Choosing the right cheese for a long car ride can be a bit dicey: You can’t bring along anything too stinky, too sticky, too runny or too crumbly. All the better if it can be cut up into cubes. For a cheese lover, this can be a bit constraining: no blues (too sticky and fragrant, and the kids don’t like it); no brie (just imagine it on smeared on the inside of your windows and the floor of the car); no ultra-aged crumbly cheddars.
What I selected for this trip was a young Australian cheddar, which had the benefit of being not only free of crumbs but, at $5.99 a pound, the right price (though in truth I was somewhat disappointed in its blandness).
I also brought along a block of asiago fresco, semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from the Veneto that I use frequently in cooking. Sweet and tangy, it did not disappoint.
You must promise not to laugh when I tell you my third and final choice: It is that famous and famously popular cheese from Brittany with the shocking orange rind. Yes, Port-Salut. Once made by Trappist monks, it is now produced by a large dairy company. Here’s what cheese expert Steven Jenkins has to say about it in his book "Cheese Primer": “Port-Salut is a thick, dyed-orange disk with a flabby, glistening interior and stupefyingly bland flavor.”
What can I say? My son loves it; it’s easy to cube or slice, even in a car; and as mediocre as it is, it's still a step or two above fast food. Got any favorite traveling cheeses? I’m taking suggestions for the ride home.
-- Domenica Marchetti
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