Letter to La Cave a Fromage - a "wonderful cheese retailer" in London...
I am writing to say how disappointed I am with a cheese I bought from your stall at the Thame Food Festival. It was particularly annoying because I’d read somewhere that you were decent cheesemongers and only sold the finest cheeses, and I’d gone there especially to sample your wares and restock my cheese selection for a supper I was hosting that night.
This certainly wasn't the case with the slab of Somerset Blue I had the misfortune to purchase. In short, it tasted and smelled of pear-flavoured ammonia, giving it a disconcerting whiff somewhere between nail varnish and a skate that’s been left in a plastic bag at the back of a broken fridge for two years. Even the wonderful crackers I'd purchased for the occasion couldn't cut the foul flavour.
Let me give you the background. When I examined the cheeses on display at your stall, a very chipper chap quickly directed me to your Somerset Blue - which he described, quite wrongly, as a “luvva-ly stilton we make ourselves”. It certainly looked mature, but I had no idea how much until I was unfortunate enough to try a mouthful. I should have been suspicious because I wasn't offered a sample to try, but at the reassuringly expensive prices foodie outfits like yours confidently charge these days, there is usually an assumed trust between purchaser and fleecer.
Instead, your cheese chap quickly got down to business and no sooner had his back been turned for a second to weigh a slab (was it a switch?), he said: "I tell you what mate, as it's the end of the day, you can have the whole piece for £6." He said it in such a cheery, and as I know now underhand way, that it seemed like he was doing me a favour.
How he wrapped it so tightly that the putrid smell of ammonia didn't seep out into the car, or poison ducks in passing villages, I have no idea. But as soon as I unwrapped it at home, the house was filled with an unearthly stench that reminded me of prahok, a fermented fish paste made in Cambodia, that had been soaked in tramps’ urine for a few days.
Words are useless for occasions like these, and I really can’t do justice to how repulsive it was. In fact, the unpleasantness of the smell was only matched by the revoltingness of the taste I had the misfortune to experience before I promptly spat the offending cracker out. When I checked with a cheese expert friend, a curd nerd if you will, he said it was obvious the cheese hadn't been stored properly, and the best place for it was the bin. Or perhaps an underground nuclear bunker designed for storing such biological abominations?
It is quite obvious that your cheese chap knew quite well how revolting the Somerset Blue was in the invidious tactics he used in disposing of his repulsive produce. But I would expect more from a supplier that immodestly, and unattributably, hails itself as a "wonderful cheese retailer".
On your website, you add: "Cheese is simple, it is mainly made of milk, but, at the same time complex..." Perhaps you mean toxic? Having re-read it a couple of times, you then really do go on to say: "Cheese is totally integrated in nature and based on secular savoir faire and human skills. We simply want to keep up with traditions and bring them into our modern world."
Well, you have certainly done the latter, and created something so contemporaneously hazardous, it warrants its own page in any good modern warfare manual. As for secular savoir faire, I imagine if Saddam Hussein was still around, it’s the sort of thing he’d use to terrorise the Kurds. Or perhaps even he wouldn’t have gone that far?