Platter of cheese - Bleu d'Auvergne (French), Woombuy Blackall Gold washed rind, (Aust), Wyngaard Goat (Dutch), dried golden raisins, local red grapes, Swedish crisp bread (Ikea!!!)
Christofle art deco-style grape scissors (discontinued late 1970s)
Onnaing Narcisse oval platter and footed fruit plate (French, faïence turn of 19th C)
Tiny Danish silver-handled knives (about 1920s Raadvad - the Danish Birmingham)
I was trawling through some on-line images of cheese platters. Would it surprise you that I hated all of them? Why is this noble product festooned and garlanded with garishly coloured fruit, assorted nuts and crackers.
Brillat-Savarin said “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”. Yeah, yeah, enough already with the silly quotes from old, dead, white males.
Nonetheless, this is what I think about cheese, eating and serving it. Would it surprise you that I am going to be dogmatic?
Serve three different cheeses only, four if you absolutely can’t decide. (Any more means each cheese can’t receive the attention it deserves.)
OR - Serve three cheeses of the same type for a “tasting”. Three blue cheeses can be very interesting, ranging from the delicious, well-made but ubiquitous supermarket Blue Castello to a sublime Roquefort. How about starting a patriotic war with a Stilton, a Gorgonzola and a Roquefort? (Yes, but what if someone doesn’t like blue cheese? Tough. I said I was going to be dogmatic.)
OR – serve just one superb cheese. I went through a phase of serving a large dramatic slice of Talegio, if it was “à point” (just right, just ripe).
No-one reading this eats fruit cheese.
Allow roughly 90gm per person in total (e.g. 3 x 30). You may have left-overs for yourself the next day.
Do you serve cheese after main course or do you serve it at the end of the meal? Neither is better than the other - it's more a cultural choice. See next post.
Heavily decorated platters are useful at parties but at table, keep it simple.
You'll place the platter in the middle of the table but please give a plate to everyone, always (even a small one) and a knife (even knife and fork if you're offering salad). Have the cheese platter small enough and light enough to be easily passed. Keep your prized slab from the Faroe Islands, hewn from the door of an ancient Viking church for a party, not dinner. Perhaps for a table of eight there could be two identical platters, one at each end.
Serve a knife for each cheese. Trust me, that knife will inevitably end up on someone’s plate but at least you’ve tried.
Serve bread and or crackers.
When serving yourself, always maintain the shape of the cheese. (For example it would be very rude to cut across the end off a triangle of Brie. In France they say you're cutting off the nose.)
Apart from a startling lack of decorum, restraint and good taste, these platters also make the cheese very hard to get at. An embarrassment of excess. Bearable for a party but not for the table.
From left to right...
1. What's with the inedible decorative squash and the tatters of greenery?
2. All cheeses have their backs to us and one is covered in inedible wax.
3. How do I get to the cheese?
4. Sensory overload. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.