I can’t say I had the most amazing grandfather. We weren’t close at all and everybody said he was a stubborn mean man, but he never treated me badly. He spoke fast, without finishing words, and most of the topics included God. He was a believer, a zealot even and, although he only went to school for two or three years, his knowledge of history and geography astounded me every time. So did his beard, to which hung all sorts of food crumbs. I can’t say that I miss him, but I do miss the wine and the cheese he used to give me every time I paid him a visit.
He had a basement under the house in which I never set foot. However, I did manage to glance inside from the last step while I waited for the old man to give me the long craved for package. That place had its own scent, a scent that I can feel now, while I’m writing these lines. My mother used to say that everything the old man got out of there smelled like mold, and the woman was right, except that this mold was noble.
I first tasted blue cheese when it didn’t exist in any of our supermarkets. It was involuntary, a mishap, a fortunate incident. I lived the same moment that the person who discovered the Roquefort cheese must have lived. I was hungry and I had a piece of cheese that had been lying in the fridge for a few good months. It wasn’t spoiled, as granddad’s cheese had the same amount of salt as the entire Slănic. I cut a few slices, a juicy tomato you can’t find anymore and a piece of bread. I had almost finished eating when I happened to see a blue line in one of the slices of cheese. I got scared, thinking that I got poisoned with mold. My childish mind was freaking out. I threw whatever was left to trash and I went to bed, waiting to die that very night. It was, however, the best blue cheese I would ever taste. After a few years, I made saltine crackers from that type of cheese and ever since I am obsessed with finding something that comes even close to half the taste I felt back then.
Every time I try, I start with 550 grams of white flour sifted into a rather big bowl. In the bowl I add 400 grams of fat butter cut into cubes and 100 grams of mold cheese, together with 400 grams of finely grated salty, fat, mature Romanian traditional goat cheese (telemea de capră). I mix the ingredients with my fingers until I obtain crumbs, which I then incorporate in one compact ball. I cover the dough with foil and I let it sleep in the fridge overnight, or, if I’m in a hurry, I put it into a warmer place for about 4 hours.
I then stretch a rectangular piece of dough, 5 milliliters thick, which a cut with a pizza cutter in 15 cm long and 1 cm wide strips. I brush them with an egg yolk dissolved with a bit of water and I sprinkle whatever seeds I can get my hands on.
I bake them for 15-20 minutes on high heat (190 degrees belonging to Celsius).
They’re good hot, next to a cold beer, but they’re also good cold, next to plenty of things.
Text&Foto: Mircea Banu