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mysticonnie

Mozzarella di bufala

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Thank you for coming. I was offline for a couple of weeks, and I returned to discovery that you were doing this q&a! It was like an early Christmas gift!

I write for a cheese weblog with some other friends (see the link in my signature), and we're all really big fans of yours. We loved your article about mozzarella di bufala in September, and have all emailed that earthlink address you printed requesting your tasting notes on domestic mozzarella, and have yet to hear back. Does this list exist? If so, can we have it?

Also, do you think that with Homeland Security tightening restrictions in customs, that it's still possible to bring unpasteurized cheese into the country by simply declaring it? Traveling friends want to know.

Thanks again, for your time.

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Dear Connie,

Thanks for the kind words.

I'm troubled by your story about requesting (you and your friends) the mozzarella di bufala list at bufala@earthlink.net, a mailbox I set up for the purpose, and not receiving the list. I'll admit that it took too long for me to get the list together, but we were waiting for certain developments in Vermont. Still, it was some time ago, over a month, that we e-mailed many copies of the list. If nobody had received a reply, we would have gotten lots of hate mail--judging from past experience. So I'm puzzled by your experience. If you've sent in your request fairly recently, it's possible that you've been grouped into a second wave of replies. Please elucidate.

As for Homeland Security: My understanding of the FDA's new rules, which went into effect on December 12, is that foreign companies importing food into the US must now appoint a responsible agent within the US and must inform the FDA (through any of several methods, including the Internet) of the shipment at least four days before the shipment is set to arrive. There's nothing I can find in the new regulations regarding individuals' bringing in food. Remember, carrying in raw milk cheeses aged fewer than 60 days is still not allowable under the law and never has been--at least for the past 52 years. As I explained in the "Cheese Crise" chapter of "It Must've Been Something I Ate," the reason you can carry in illegal cheese with impunity is that the FDA has no inspectors at the airport, and the customs people who check your baggage couldn't care less about the FDA's war against real cheese. Everybody I spoke with denied there was a policy of benign, very benign, neglect. On many occasions I have followed the policy of "declare everything." I am always very explicit in what I declare; I write on the back of the form "raw milk cheeses aged for fewer than 60 days" and sometimes add, "in contravention of FDA regulations and statutes." The inspector reads it and waves me through. If the FDA were thoroughly concerned with homeland security, they would reassign everybody there who has been working against real cheese.

Although I have not yet had a chance to test the new regulatory regime, I don't believe that the FDA has any more inspectors at the airports for non-commercial , personal, imports than they did before. If they do, it's a real waste of money. The reason for declaring everything, apart from the fun of it, is to protect yourself legally. But as I've written, the main thing to fear at the airport is the USDA. Bring in some uncooked (i.e. unpasteurized) meat, and the USDA guys will read you your rights. Thing is, except during the Mad Cow and Sick Pig scares, the USDA was not concerned about cheese. The FDA is concerned with human health, the USDA with animal health. And besides Sky King, my fabulous golden retriever, animals do not eat Camembert.

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Dear Jeffrey,

I submitted my request late in August (pretty much as soon as the Sept. Vogue hit the newstands). I figured I wasn't getting a response because you or your assistant were very busy. I didn't send another because I didn't want to flood the mailbox, and because I knew of several other people who were waiting for a response as well. But that situation has been corrected - I just sent another request.

That "Cheese Crise" chapter, by the way, along with "Fear of Formaggio" and "Decoding Parmesan" has become my bible.

My best friend's dog, Rusty (a Great Dane-German Shepherd mix) loves cave aged Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds. He would probably love Camembert de Normandie, but we always finish it before he gets a crack at it.

Thanks for answering my questions, and thanks once again, for honoring us with your presence.

Connie

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Jeffrey, for what it's worth, the FDA has stated publicly that its new rules are not likely to be enforced before next March or April.

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Jeffrey, for what it's worth, the FDA has stated publicly that its new rules are not likely to be enforced before next March or April.

Hey Bill, Phyllis Posnick (my lifeline to Irving Penn at Vogue) has told me all about you. -- Jeffrey

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Yes, but unlike your situation, she does not know enough about me for me to have to issue blanket public denials! I hesitated to involve her in these sordid goings-on, but she is a Piemonte true believer, which is all that I require to accord her my respect and good will! And by the way, lest I forget to mention it, one can now buy fresh buffala, trucked in daily from Campania, on Corso Langhe in Alba (along with excellent Sardinian flatbread and spicy salume from Abruzzo that make Hormel pepperoni cower in shame). I know this because your fine essay recounting one man's quest for the perfect pizza outside of Napoli (the Holy Grail of the post-modern age, in my view, and the highest and best use to which your considerable skills could be put) led me, not to New Haven for a pie at Frank Pepe's, but to Neive in the Piemonte, where I converted my children's inheritance from ready cash to a wood-fired pizza oven! (Actually, it is a combo unit the size of an upper middle-class mausoleum (and to me, far more attractive) which includes a wood-fired grill vaguely reminiscent of the spit at Da Cesare, if not large enough to handle an entire baby goat.)

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Dear Jeffrey,

OK, I know this is bait, but it's so enticing that I'll just have to bite - of course animals eat Camembert - the animals under discussion here being dogs. You do remember Paris - the one in France? I swear that my uniquely fabulous Karli - German Shepherd and Yellow Labrador mix - can sniff out a perfectly ripe Camembert even better than our esteemed neighbor, Marie-Anne Cantin. No slight to Madame Cantin at all - Karli just knows our cheese preferences better.

Sincerely,

Louisa

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