The last time I was at my local library (give it up for the Multnomah County system, what what!) I saw a copy of “The Cheese Nun” DVD. Of course, like a complete cheese nerd, I snatched it up! It’s a PBS documentary about a Benedictine nun, Sister Noella Marcellino, who goes in search of a deeper understanding of just what is happening to cheeses as they go through the ripening process. She ends up returning to college to conduct scientific research into the microbiology of cheese fermentation. She continues on in her studies to the cheese caves of France and the artisanal cheesemakers there who have been practicing their craft for hundreds of years.
The nuns of her Abbey are absolutely charming, working their land, milking their cows and making cheeses. The science behind the cheese fermentation process was fascinating and not something which I think I had even slightly grasped before. And the visuals of the cheesemaking process were really informative. If you’re at all interested in the history of cheesemaking and seeing how it’s done (in a variety of ways) then totally check out this DVD.
I’ve started lining up some cheese related books to read over the holidays and even though I was in the middle of Franzen’s memoir I couldn’t resist taking a peek at the first chapter of Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese by Margaret Hathaway and got hooked — I had to read it right to the end!
It’s a quick read covering the travels of two New Yorkers — the author and her fiance — as they cross the U.S. exploring the entire goat world in a quest to discover if they could run their own goat farm. They visit livestock auctions and explore the largely ethnic world of goat meat. They visit goat dairy farms and cheesemaking operations and see a few goat shows where the fanciest and most lovingly cared for goats get to strut their stuff with their owners. The book is full of history and anecdotes about these curious animals and also touches on the current state of small farms and agriculture in the U.S. Totally recommended reading and you can also check out their website where they blog occasionally about life on the farm and if you dip way into their archives you can read blog posts and see photos from the places they visited and the people they met.