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Winners: Round 25

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To tell the truth, I've been keeping this Smackdown open to see how may chimes Carrot Top can ring on cheese. I give up: she's got fermented milk protein on the brain.

But there have been other terrific entries. Thank you.

In ascending order, here are the winners:

Third Prize: YoChefGreg

ripening slowly

liederkranz on my counter

birds die in flight

Congratulations, YoChefGreg. Here's your Golden Gully:


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Second Prize: Carrot Top

Not Your Average Joe

Walking into the house that was set in the working class section of Bridgeport, Connecticut it might seem as if you were entering a maze. An amusement park perhaps, the back part where the tricky things were kept that were used to amuse the crowds, the things that were made of bits of strong cloth and even stronger bits of metal, the clutter of odd shaped paraphernalia that just made one feel as if the Wizard of Oz must be around somewhere, if not a midget or a dwarf or the Snake Lady…some sort of person that would induce amazed wonder.

Follow through to the end of this somewhat claustrophobic hall and you would enter directly into the kitchen. And there she was. She did not induce any sort of wonder in the way she looked. Standing about four feet eight inches tall, Josephine had grey hair pulled back, always pulled back but for when she would retire at night. Then the hair would cascade down her back in a total surprise of rebellion, the image reminding one that the old were once young and that the young will become old as sure as any thing can be on this earth. Her hair that was daily rolled into its bun suited her, though, for she was a direct no-nonsense woman that had lived well and with full health into her seventies.

The kitchen was where Jo existed. You could find her other places…once in a while in the garden outside in the lot that was set to the side of this house that had raised a family of six children, four boys and two girls all somehow surviving and growing in three bedrooms. You might find her once a year or so at church. But the rest of the time, all the time, you would find her in her kitchen. There, this tiny, uneducated, unpretensious woman was Queen.

Jo cooked every day of her life. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Seven days a week, no respite. Nobody else would dream of approaching the kitchen to cook, not only because she was Queen but because nobody wished to go even one meal without tasting the food she and she alone could make. Her daughters had been taught to cook, and her sons a bit too…but never was the savor the same. It was not the ingredients, for they were the same. It was not the methods, for the methods she used were nothing if not basic. It was not the equipment nor the weather nor the mood of the person nor anything, anything at all that could be found to answer the question “Why?” It was just Josephine. Josephine was not an artist with the food, no. Not unless you believe that what an artist does is to somehow transport love into their works. For that is what Josephine did, and that was the taste that filled the mouths of those who were lucky enough to partake of it. Jo’s food was love, made real enough to eat.

“Hey, hey!” her small high-pitched Italian-accented voice would warm one as they entered the kitchen, her kitchen, her kingdom. “What’re you doing? Sit down, sit down, here, eat!” And you would not have a choice. It did not matter if you were hungry or not, for the food would appear before you on the table that was cluttered with a zillion things as she bustled busily in the six foot space between sink and stove and refrigerator. You would have to perch on the kitchen chair and then enter into the world of busy conversation, half in Italian and half shouted in laughing English… and bowls and plates and pots of food, food that said love, food that would send you into a place of deep contentment and childlike passivity.

What did she cook? Nothing new….nothing too expensive or finessed, that is for sure. This food was prepared on a shoestring, but that shoestring could tie the world together, and do it beautifully. There were roasts seasoned with garlic and fresh herbs, endless platters of strange bitter vegetables of all shades of green, some from the garden, some from the market and some picked at the side of the road. There were small glasses of strong homemade wine with larger glasses of tepid water served in a cacophony of different designs of glassware to wash it down. There was polenta and rice and pasta, always with some sort of “ururu” or ragu, the tomato sauce that filled the house with the aromas that only a long-simmering, meat-and-herb seasoned tomato sauce can give, the aromas that hint of bright sunshine and laughter, the ease, simplicity and suppleness of the Latin way of life.

But there was one thing that Jo used in her cooking in almost every dish. One “magic ingredient” beyond and besides the love that proved inimitable. Cheese. Cheese of all sorts and varieties was pinched or shaken or grated onto almost everything. Never was it slathered or piled or used to add the cloying overpowering richness that could deceive one into believing the dish was good, simply based on the pure cheese-y richness of it. It was always a counterpoint, an accent. It was the feather in her cap.

Homemade ricotta was whipped into a soft puff then poured over macaroni with a ragu sauce, the creamy cool whiteness of the cheese seeming like a gathering of angels hovering over and protecting, aiding and abetting the spicy sauce and heavy pasta lowering below it waiting for its touch. Grana padano fell like golden tears into the rich chicken broths that were filled with whatever happened to appear that day…bitter greens, double-yolked eggs, fresh peas, rice…it melted just enough to allow that the tears that it was were now gone, that all was right with the world, all in this bowl of golden soup. Slices of grainy Provolone were layered into potato gratins, the earthiness of the potatoes somehow being made to seem more real, more solid, more powerful, with the addition of the cheese.

The book has not been written yet of Josephine’s recipes. Would it be possible? Would the recipes, even so closely written and carefully detailed, even filled with memories, would these recipes ever be able to do what they claimed…to bring Jo’s love into reality again, in the form of a bite taken of a fine dish of food?

It is not possible to know the answer to that question. But there is one thing that any cook who wishes to dish up a plate of love to eat

can be sure of. Add a bit of cheese to your recipe, gracefully and carefully, as if it were a kiss on the top of a child’s nose. The love will be tasted.

Congratulations, Carrot Top. Here's your Golden Gully:


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First Prize: Carrot Top

TopMoira Tuscanaro’s Cue’bs for the Week

From Your Personal Cheesey Astrologer

Moira is here, cheese-lovers! Listen up and then bite right in!

Watch out for the Moon as it enters the path of Aries this week. There could be enough fire to toast your Kasseri! (I do so hope you all took the opportunity that presented itself last week for Bacchanal picnics, so encouraged by Virgo standing still for a brief moment in the sky!)

Here are your recommendations for the week to come. Remember, follow the stars when it comes to your cheese. It could change your life in drastic and unimaginable ways!


Aries the Ram: Aries, now don’t get too excited, but Cabrales is waiting for you. Your equally strong and demanding characters will meld into quite a match! Be sure to remember to wipe the crumbs from your mouth as you finish eating the entire pound you’ll be buying, for your companions do so enjoy hearing you define and clarify all things in the world for them endlessly!

Taurus the Bull: Taurus, if you can rouse yourself from the dreams of the nice-looking girl or guy that is across the room, take your dreamy eyes right to the cheese store and place them on that traditional 40 pound cylinder of Cheddar. This sturdy, solidly yellow, conventionally pleasurable cheese will calm you down momentarily from the seemingly endless lust for love that fills you. . .and the nice huge 40 pound size of the entire cheese will satisfy your urge for stability and freedom from worry.

Gemini the Twins: Ah, twisted little Gemini! How confused can you get with all the options out there?! Stand still for just a moment and stare into the sky. Can’t you see it? Can’t you just see what the stars are telling you? With your vivid imagination, I am just so sure that you can, sweetie. “Quark, quark!” they are crying. Yes, you do hear them, don’t you? So do go straight to the store and grab a container of Quark and chow down. Little bites, please, now. The gentle softness of intelligence that Quark holds does so much to make your own intelligence glow!

Cancer the Crab: This week you can prove to all your sensitivity and probity, Cancer. And at the same time show them all how very different you are from them all, all those poseurs. Gaperon is your recommendation for this weeks taste. Just hold your breath as you bite into the garlic imbued savor, and remember what is was like, on the bottom of the sea whence you came from in ancient times.

Leo the Lion: Stop brushing your hair for a moment, please. No, turn this way and take that eye off the mirror, Leo, for I have the perfect, I mean perfect, just as you like it, cheese for you. Cornish Yarg. You do like the way it sounds, don’t you! Yarg. Yarg. Ah, who else would be so quietly brave as to dive into a bit of nettle-covered Yarg but you, Leo! Show your friends truly what a leader you are!

Virgo the Virgin: Celestial rumor has it that you are not easily pleased, dear Virgo. Whatever is presented to you must not be too sharp, too soft, too hard, too wet, too dry, too crunchy nor too out-of-date. A cheese with a style is the cheese for you, and we will attempt to assure that it will not offend. For you sure can go on forever, complaining about things. Taleggio. Beautiful (and rich! Rich! A bonus for you!) Taleggio will surely calm your nerves and settle things down for a moment or two. Do try it!

Libra the Scales: Please stop smiling for a moment, Libra. I haven’t even said anything yet and there you are with that silly grin on your face that you think will charm me. And try to sit up rather than lazing on the couch in that lazy way. Are you ready? Explorateur, darling.

Need I say more? Venus Rules.

Scorpio the Scorpion: Your intellectual demands require a special sort of cheese, Scorpio. One that is as different and individual in its own way as you are. Sexy Sapsago is the one. If you can find someone, anyone, to share this cheese with you, you have found a true friend and perhaps a love. Try not to be too critical of them if they faint upon the first bite. Nothing but a Scorpio’s intensity could melt this cheese.

Sagittarius the Archer: Happy Sagittarius, here is the cheese that will make you stop talking for a minute! Reblochon. Find a friend or two or twenty, call them all up and share it! The party has begun, and you are the star, for sensual Reblochon is by your side!

Capricorn the Goat: Contemptuous you may be of all earthy things, Capricorn, as you work conscientiously toward the higher things of life.

It is good to remember that even the sturdy goat needs to be nurtured on its steady path up the mountain. I advise Vacherin Mont d’Or. Full of a quiet beauty that will beckon you closer, the herby taste will remind you of your original home on the hills between the high fir trees. Keep a stiff upper lip, Capricorn, and do give it a try!

Aquarius the Water Bearer: Who cares if it sounds weird, right Aquarius? Who cares if nobody else wants to try it? You know what you want, and you don’t give a damn if it sounds like a water cooler bubbling in distress. Gubeen is the cheese for you. Gubeen. Say it loud and say it proud! Damn right, both you and your cheese are full of character!

Pisces the Fish: Pisces. Pisces, I am calling you! PISCES! Stop dreaming and listen for a minute here. You will be hungry soon. You will be hungry for something sweet, something salty, something pleasant and something everything. Try to find your way out of the house and get over to the cheese shop. Write down this word before you go, so you will not forget: Gjetost. It can only make you that much sweeter than you already are. Try it.


That is it for this weeks tastes. Remember, when your cheese fits your stars, the stars shine round you. Enjoy! Enjoy!

Congratulations, Carrot Top. Here's, um, your other Golden Gully:


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Margaret and the Academy;

If I may, I would just like to thank all of those little people.......that I stepped on and used, as though a flight of stairs, to achieve this lofty......... :blink:



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Your beautiful manners shame me, Gregg. I would also like to thank Maggie for providing the opportunity, in this forum, to just plain have a great time playing with words on food. The Literary Smackdown seems like such a wonderful thing to have available. . .it is like a playground where one can go and find others that like to do the same thing, playing with the same toys, in a very safe environment.

Till next time. . .


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Just received my "fabulous prize" in the mail, and it truly is fabulous.

The Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher.

A beautiful volume, and I am so happy to receive it.

My own copy is very old and bedraggled, but it will never leave my shelves for the piles that are given away to the library or thrift stores.

A heartfelt "Thanks!" to you again, Maggie.


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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