Years ago when I was a round nugget of a child running around in terry-cloth shorts I had a book I read to myself many times over. It involved some Amphibian or Owl With Shoes who lived inside a mushroom or hollow tree. I can’t remember much of the story but the one thing that stuck in my brain was that on many occasions this anthropomorphic critter would find himself without food or drink and would simply chop an onion or think about sad things in order to create his own version of tear tea. I remember being disgusted by the thought of sipping one’s own saline tears but that didn’t freak me out as much as the things he’d think about to coax the tears out of his eyes and into the kettle. Torn books, uneaten mashed potatoes, no internet (ok I added that) and stubby chewed-up pencils that were no longer needed and left to roll behind the oven, never to be seen again. As a kid I could see those pencils laying there waiting to be found, just looking up at the ceiling thinking “I’m still good! Please! Anyone, I Can Still Make Notes And Drawings For You, I Promise You! Please? I’ll be good!” and wouldn’t you know I would begin sobbing every single time I got to that damn part of the story! Here’s where it gets bad — and you might want to stop reading here — the lead character would fill his pot up, wipe his eye, smile and exclaim something like “Tea’s Ready!” and flutter away.
What the hell? Did you really get my 5-year old emotions in a tizzy so you could have tea and then just walk away smiling? What about me? What about those pencils? They are still there, tiny and little, craving the warmth of a human hand! That hasn’t changed just because your thirst has been sated! You goshdarn son of a bitch dirty bird!
As you can see, I am still deeply affected by this story and really had no idea I’d be writing this with a tear down my cheek and my heart beating like crazy. I’m good though, thanks. Let me take a quick break.
(matt taking a break)
Ok, I’m back. So, how does this have to do with my blog entry? Well you see, this story would always pop into my head when I’d reach into my cheese drawer. And what a cheese drawer it is. I’m a cheese freak with almost always a full drawer of assorted cheeses. I’d take a slice or chunk, grab a baguette, grate some over pasta, and use my various bits of cheese until they’re down to nothing and then I’d delicately wrap up my spent pieces back in wax paper and return them to the fridge where before long I had a collection of rinds and chunks too small to be of much cooking use. And then I begin to think of those pencils and that Owl or Mosquito or whatever it was and I close the door quickly, telling myself that at least my cheese bits are safe and cold and taken care of. Because no matter what I could not throw them away!
Fortunately a few years ago I was sharing this story with a friend who not only recommended I seek professional help regarding my issues with lost pencils but also told me about Fromage Fort. Can I tell you how Fromage Fort has changed my life? Pieces of random cheeses are mixed with wine, garlic, sometimes butter and perhaps some herbs, resulting in an intensely flavored (the “fort part!) cheese spread that’s terrific with toast points, bread or vegetables. I like to safeguard my pencils, er, I mean, cheese remnants and make this for parties and luckily no one has caught on that it’s made from leftovers. Until now, that is.
But hey — at least I nurture and love my leftovers and unused pieces with great affection, taking care of them until the salty, savory end.
Unlike some self-centered owls I know.
You can use almost any cheese you have on hand but be gentle if it includes any from the blue family (Cabrales, Roquefort, Gorgonzola) as they tend to overpower the mix. And for the love of god do not use Velveeta. And if you’re like me throw a bit of caution to the wind and cut off any mold that has grown on your hard cheeses but never use any soft cheeses that have gone moldy. That’s not a good thing but I am not a scientist or health professional so tread carefully and don’t blame me for nuthin’- that’s my disclaimer.
1/2 pound of cheese pieces (without the rinds)
1/2 garlic clove
1/4 to 1/2 cup of white wine (depending on the desired texture. Crumbly or spreadable? You decide!)
freshly ground black pepper
In a processor add the cheese bits, garlic and white wine and process until fully blended. Depending on your cheeses and their moisture level you may need more or less white wine. I tend to eyeball it until it resembles a cheese spread. Feel free to add herbs and I’ve even seen some recipes that include butter because clearly this spread isn’t rich enough, right? Once fully mixed place into small ramekins or a bowl. Enjoy!