Monday, August 23, 2010
You know, I've been trying to write about hummingbirds, back myself sideways into them, and I just can't seem to. I would love to see one here one of these days - best yet, snap a photo with my wonderful new camera - but I haven't seen one this summer. I am, on some level, bursting with hummingbirds - and yet it's not happening.
Instead I wish to go back to cheese! Or as Quentin Tarantino (is that who I mean?) - no, John Travolta - would say, drawing out the word lewdly and lasciviously, fromage. Back when D & I lived in Carroll Gardens there was a wonderful little French-inspired deli, owned & operated by a charming and exuberant Frenchman, at the corner of Cobble Hill Park.
(The hundreds of times I've personally walked up and down Clinton Street - what do I think of now? That I've glimpsed the cheerful red-painted deli and pocket park on Law & Order or some other movie scenes that were filmed there. As with the matinée I saw yesterday, Eat Pray Love - what piqued my attention? I didn't stay for the credits but I am quite sure that one of the scenes was filmed at BookCourt, an independent book shop in Cobble Hill, a place I'd frequented countless times. In years past I might have seen the movie at the Cobble Hill Cinema, but instead here I was some 100 or 120 miles north, in an indifferent strip mall triplex, viewing it - and yet could say under my breath - "Oh, BookCourt!" and feel smug as any Brooklyn insider, as if I'd been sitting in the Cobble Hill...)
Right - so back to fromage. The French deli owner had a marvelous selection of perfectly ripe cheeses, very unusual (to me) types - one, Morbier, with a grey vein of ash running through it that, as he explained to me, divided the morning milk from the afternoon, several varieties of medallion-sized encrusted goat cheeses - oh my - the selection exquisite - not encyclopedic - beautifully edited, well chosen. And there was one that I just fell in love with - Pérac - runny, fragrant, flavorful, and unpasteurized (the cheese equivalent of bootleg at the time, a bit on the down-low given some wacky, trumped-up attack on unpasteurized cheeses going on at the time).
I adored this cheese and now and again over the course of several years treated myself to it, a little, hardly palm-sized round hovering around $8-10. Then 9/11 happened, except that on 9/10 I'd switched jobs and as of that date commuted from Brooklyn to Fordham Plaza in the Bronx (nightmare). The following summer I was still commuting to the Bronx, and the office acquired a summer intern from France, the charming, game and slightly clueless Anne-Lise. My office-friend Xio'a took her under her maternal wing, and the three of us became good friends. One day Anne-Lise and I got to talking about cheese, I mentioned Pérac and she about blanched and swooned and declared it her favorite. So the following day or the day after, I walked up leafy brownstoned Clinton Street to this beautiful little French deli and was delighted to order the cheese from the French proprietor. And - now I don't know why I did this, I bought crackers instead of a baguette - but you know, sometimes a Really Good Baguette is Hard to Find - so instead I bought a box of good crackers, probably those ubiquitous table-water ones.
I made a bit of a spread in the conference room on the 5th floor of the wretched Fordham Plaza office - not many people in the office, and f'em anyway, really the show was for the French intern Anne-Lise and co-conspirator Xio'a -- well, and whoever else was friendly to us. Anne-Lise loved the Pérac but sniffed - in France we would never have cheese with crackers - with bread only.
Ah, well. I tried. And so, my dearest darling, I warmed my hands with a really beautiful baguette today, and thought of you, and melted brie, and devoured it,
and the rain is pouring down, and at quarter-to-six it's so dark I need my desk lamp, and Penelope is asleep on a ruby-colored cushion by my feet
(and I'm thinking it wasn't a Peter Gabriel concert I had seen all those many years ago at Carnegie Hall - now I'm thinking it was Phil Collins)
darling, so much love and very many kisses