…these are the ongoing explorations of the Cheese Ship Simon Barrett, a life long mission to explore new cheeses, and boldly go where everyone should….

I have loved cheese for many years, cheese is like wine, a good one should be savored, lingered over, and enjoyed to the max. There is the look, the smell, the texture, the taste, and the delightful feeling of satisfaction and well being that happens after the last bite.

Like wine, cheese has rules of etiquette. A good Chateau Rothschild can be ruined if served at the wrong temperature and wrong glass. In the case of cheese no glasses are needed but the ‘landing pads’ are the key. Different cheeses need different approaches. Some work well with bread, others are more at home on crackers. Almost always a ‘lubricant’ is required, in my world that is butter. Using Margarine or Mayo, would be a terrible sin.

Yes, I am a cheese snob!

One of my favorite memories from England was the huge blocks of aged Cheddar my father bought for the pub. To this day, if I see even less than stellar Cheddar, it has to be eaten the right way. It is called a ploughman’s lunch. It is the apex of simplicity. A hunk of fresh crusty bread, a piece of Cheddar, some butter, and a knife. In my version I like to include a couple of pickled onions on the plate, but that’s just me. At aged 14 I saw the Ploughman’s Lunch in its true form. A local farmer needed some help, all I had to do was be on the flat bed trailer and stack the bails of straw on it.

At 7am the next morning I was on the back of the trailer armed with two bail hooks and a bag of Ham Sandwiches (home made ham). The pace had been busy, by this time I was 10 feet off the deck of the trailer and fed up with two guys shooting bails at me with pitch forks. The activity stopped, it was time for a break, it was 10am, and this was lunch time. I climbed down from the trailer with my ham sandwiches.

It is hard to estimate the age of my old and grizzled bosses, but they had clearly been doing this for many years. They both had old and weathered metal boxes, Inside was a piece of cheddar and some bread. They both had pocket knives that had been sharpened over many years, the blades were crescent shaped. I offered them my ham sandwiches, they rebuffed it, They had been eating bread and cheese for decades, and were not about to change now.

I made it home in one piece. Dad compped the workers a couple of drinks. My mother told me that she would have more ham sandwiches ready for me in the morning. Nope. I wanted a beaten up tin, A piece of cheese, some bread, and an old pocket Knife.

The box wasn’t as old as it could have been, the knife wasn’t as gnarled as it could have been, but I spent two weeks having fun being one of the team.

Thus began my lifelong quest for cheese. The 70’s were a great decade for boy meets cheese. Having spent time in Germany I had also developed a taste for salami’s and other sausages. The end of the 70 signaled the completion of my ambition to get out of the UK. Sitting in Business class on a 747 I waved goodbye. I was now officially part of what was known as the ‘brain drain’. For 20 years I got derailed from the cheese quest, but recently it came roaring back. A large refrigerated box of Cheese, Crackers and Butter arrived on my doorstep. The real surprise was that no dairy product came from Wisconsin. I have nothing against the state, and understand the need to punt out Cheese and butter at a large rate to meet domestic needs, but lets face it, the stuff is not as good as the real thing.

My wife goes shopping and she asks me what I want, I say cheese, she says what sort? My reply is something along the lines of, anything that looks interesting as long it was not made in Wisconsin. Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Wisconsin. It is more like comparing a cheap Spanish Plonk (wine) with a fine French version. Both will get you drunk, and both will give you a hangover if you consume too much. Good booze however, gives you a better hangover. Rather than the sharp pang of pain it is a deep dull thud.

Cheese does not give you a hangover, but a good one will give you some things to remember. Join me on my cheese quest.

Simon Barrett

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