Last night I developed a serious crush on Kendall and John Antonelli. About 15 of us were gathered in their stylish little jewelbox of a cheeseshop to taste and learn about cheese. “This is the cheese that made me fall in love with cheese,” John Antonelli tells us. He is holding to his nose a piece of comte, a firm cheese, pale and creamy yellow. I do the same and breathe in a complex scent–caramel and fruit, round with notes of hazelnut. On my tongue, the creaminess is cut through with a saltiness that heightens these elements. John describes the cheesemaking process, and I realize what I’m tasting is the summer pastures of the Jura massif in Eastern France, each grass in these diverse pastures contributing unique nuance to the cheese. Neighboring shepherds pool their milk from the Montbeliarde cows through the summer and huge wheels of cheese are aged by affineurs and brought to market bearing the flavors of the mountainside, each season’s cheese a little different, marked by that summer’s weather and the grasses that grew there.
And, so, I start to think. There are lots of things that bother me about industrialized agriculture, but what I think bothers me the most is the lie perpetrated by the industry that food does not have a backstory. For the truth is, that it always does. Even the most processed, adulterated foods were shaped by human intention. When our food tastes completely homogenous, when the fast food industry convinces us that every single hamburger must taste completely identical to the other billion being served all across the world, we forget that all food has a story intimately connected to the larger human story. The history and connection are not gone, they’re just hidden, perhaps because the story is not a pretty one, not one we’d like to think of as we shovel in a burger covered in processed cheese.
When I have dinner, I want to taste the peculiarities of central Texas soil, I want to know whose hands have tended our greens, that land, animals and people involved in my dinner were well treated, respected, happy to give nourishment to my family. Stop by the cheeseshop. It’s not just cheese the Antonelli’s are selling–it’s ideas as old as the mountains of France and as fresh as the high summer breezes there. Go, taste, and think.
Kale Caesar with Torn Bread Croutons
Adapted from Tartine Bread
Four 1-inch slices day-old country bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
6 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil (you might not use it all)
1-2 bunches kale or mustard greens, center stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
⅔ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the bread with olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.
Place the garlic, anchovies, egg yolk and lemon juice in a blender or small food processor. While motor is running, slowly add olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified. When all the oil is incorporated, season to taste with salt and more lemon juice, if desired.
In a large bowl, toss kale with dressing, parmesan, and croutons. Serve, topped with additional parmesan.