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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tomme and her Wild Garlic Adventure

This story begins with the usual cheesy line: Once upon a time...

...there lived a little Swiss miss. Young Tomme was a soft-spoken lass. Her gentle, easy-going nature was legendary in the land.

A barnyard girl, if her milky complexion was starting to get a little wrinkly from the rustic straw she was made to sleep on, Tomme was never heard to complain.

And if some scared old men led by an old goat called Pasteur decided to scald her to make her safer for children and mothers to hang out with, while her sisters swanned around in all their native glory (blame their promiscuous ways on that cow, their mother), Tomme remained a biddable dinner guest and was still very pleasant to all visitors.

So how does this naive, gentle 17th-century maiden go and get tangled up with that pungent Wild Garlic person?
Well, it's like this -- Tomme, you see, was born in the canton of Vaud, near Lake Geneva. And not far from her homeland flows the river Vadoge. On its banks lived that swashbuckling swain Garlic -- Ails des Ours was his family name, well known among the gentry for their headstrong habits. How the two children met, we don't know -- perhaps the farmer, who'd taken Tomme's mother for his mistress, had something to do with it.

Indeed, scurrilous tongues would have it that the old cow's great-great-great-granddam had a fling of her own with Garlic's ancestor, Rampson the Savage, and together they made some odorous butter -- which lends the whole tale a rather incestuous air, but people will say anything when they're wanting for gossip, you know!

What we do know for certain was that Tomme's melting heart was rather charmed by the pretty white flowers that Garlic brought bouquets of in his broad arms. And it was by all accounts a marriage made in heaven.

She gentled his rough edges and taught him to sweeten his breath with cow's milk. He taught her that raising a little stink is nothing to be afeared of, now and then, and it's worth taking a chance on all that earthy goodness, even if posh Cousin Camembert from Normandy turns up his nose at their capers and her half-sister Tomme Savoie is miffed by all the fuss. Sourpuss sophisticates may call her 'fast', but they're just upset she won't linger with them.

So our heroine now goes by Tomme Vaudoise de la Venoge. She's made friends with the honeybees of the Alpine meadows, too, and so is never short of combs -- so sweet of them! No longer does she sleep on straw, for Garlic got his cousin Chives to weave her a silky green mattress fit for a princess, and she has a waxy white counterpane with the Ail des Ours coat-of-arms. They set up home together under a round brown dome of cob, baked from the best brown flour in the land and studded with hazelnut cobbles -- and there they lived happily ever after.

Indeed, judging by the gorgeous chlorophyll-tinged ooze of the soft-centred, mellow cheese that Amit brought home last month, we believe they live there still. Her sisters in the raw, they don't travel all that much; but Tomme's pasteurization has inured her to adventure, and she does get around -- which is delicious, for us!

[Tall tales apart, the Tomme Vaudoise is a lovely soft young cheese from Switzerland, and we were lucky enough to be given one flavoured with wild garlic, aka ail des ours, from the Jura region. It's soft coat of white bloom was striped from being ripened on straw, and its flavour was buttery and grassy 'green' and earthy all at the same time. We read it must be consumed when barely a week old, to catch it at its best, and so we made sure it was the first off our cheese board.]

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