MY INTRODUCTION TO CHEESE
I received my first cheese book in December, 2000, from a personal training client whom I was training in Dallas, Texas. She asked her good friend, Paula Lambert, the owner of the Mozzarella Company, to autograph it for me. The Cheese Lover’s Cookbook & Guide included over 150 recipes, with instruction on how to buy, store, and serve cheeses. At the time, I avoided full-fat cheeses and didn’t have interest in cooking, so I can honestly say that I read only one chapter, which conveniently appeared first. The title, Cheese and Nutrition, instantly caught my eye, but the first sentence made me nervous: “Cheese is very nutritious.” I skipped to the next page and found a table listing the RDA for calcium. That was important information, I admitted.
I found Fats in Cheese on the next page and noticed the writer’s careful explanation of how the fat in cheese is measured and offered helpful tips on reading the labels on cheese made in American, England, and France. “Most cheeses are about 50% moisture, she writes.” Then, she made a strong case for the protein content in cheese, a topic that always interests personal trainers.
Another table listing grams of fat and protein in ten cheeses, and added calories per ounce, for each. The last section discussed lactose intolerance, a topic that I knew nothing about. I don’t remember reading about it in my nutrition books. She explained in great detail, how and why some people can tolerate older cheeses. I found this new information refreshingly interesting.
After thumbing through the chapter, I read it again…carefully this time. I put the book back on the shelf and didn’t pick it up until a year later.
By this time, my interest in cheese had begun. Sparked by his home cheesemaking hobby, my husband had almost convinced me that high-quality cheese was not to be feared as an evil food. We attended a Texas Cheesemakers meeting in Dallas, sponsored by the Mozzarella Company. Paula was throwing a party for the prize-winning cheesemakers from Texas. That summer, five companies won fifteen awards at the American Cheese Society Conference. The Mozzarella Company won four!
I took my video camera along, hoping to get the opportunity to interview the winners. I didn’t know anyone when the party started, but a few hours later, I felt that I had made some new friends. The cheesemakers were easy to interview and shared some interesting stories. (I’m writing this four years later and am happy to say that my cheese friends are among the most treasured.)
I drove to Dallas to interview Paula at her cheesemaking location and took the book that I received as a gift two years earlier. This time, she wrote: “For Babs, once again! So glad to know of your passion for cheese and what a wonderful coincidence that Peggy Dear gave you my book so long ago! Best wishes for your Texas Cheese Tour video. July 3, 2012. —- Paula
My introduction to the cheese world started with a book, a series of interviews, and several trips to Dallas, to talk with one of cheese’s pioneers, and perhaps the most enthusiastic cheesemaker on the planet—Paula Lambert. Meeting her was a turning point. So Paula, thanks for turning me around to the light side of cheese, even if it took a few years.
You can watch my interviews with Paula here: http://texascheesetour.com/videos/
This interview took place in July, 2012: https://youtu.be/PSgFOPhCKbE