December 25, 2009

There’s plenty of sunshine and crystal clear water here on the Yucatan Peninsula, but we find very little raw, whole milk cheese. Sometimes we get a craving and go to extremes to satiate it. Last week, Jennifer decided she needed a wheel of the Grandmother of Hard Cheeses. Retrieving a 90 pound round of Sbrinz is no easy feat as it’s only made in one small area in central Switzerland.

Our journey started in a 20 foot ponga on rough seas. We were soaked and battered when we found Señor Escalarte in the Nomad sub two miles out from shore. With a snifter full of dark rum and a fine cigar we crossed the pond on cushy leather club chairs gazing at great whites and giant squid. We entered port in La Teste de Buch and headed for the old alpine trading route in a broken down Citroen taxi huffing the carbon monoxide wafting in from under our seat. Our gnomish driver muttered in between screams of PUTON at passing cars.

In Lausanne we picked up thick socks, hobnail boots and a leather vest, then headed East for the Savoy Alps. Jennifer is not one for camping so my pack was quite heavy with the large, Arabian style tent, king size paduk sleeping chamber and bidet with gold plated fixtures. Jennifer read Vogue from her perch atop my shoulders as we hiked the mountains by day. I fed her gruyere and grapes inside the our makeshift saffron walls in the evenings while the sounds of the rivers lulled us to sleep.

Five days later, we struck gold in Giswil when we stumbled upon a dairy farm with a cellar full of gorgeous wheels. At least as big around as his cheeses, Beeler proudly shared his samples ranging from 1 to 4 years old with red wine from Val Formazza. The youngest of the Sbrinz was a semi-hard paste that was mild and nutty. The oldest was crystallized and spicy with deep hints of butterscotch.

When our bellies were full and our appetite satiated, Beeler’s wife made us hay beds in the barn, patted us softly and read bedtime stories while the brown cows sang chorus. Her chubby hand wandered a bit during the patting, but I only had to reprimand her mildly. Those crazy farm folk. We dreamt of cheese and the clear, blue Caribbean waters awaiting us in Xcalak.