Cheese is made by people.

I've now tried twice,  and I conclude that Australian oysters are superior to English ones,  giving AU its 2nd point against Europe .

It wasn't my  first trip to London but the first wasn't a fair test,  as the first was during Christmas week and everything was closed.  (Despite that handicap,  I discovered Ottolenghi a few hours before leaving,  and was forever changed by the revelation of white + wood.)

Pilgrimage obligations dispatched I went in search of a neighborhood to call home,  and more food.

I tried some classic British cuisine,  including  a very high quality scotch egg (didn't get it} and fried candy.  Impressed,  but then I love Oreo cookies under most conditions.

Spitalfields Artisan market has gone to the import darkside and I failed to avoid bad coffees along the way.

In fact the amount of money I spent on coffee during one week boggles the mind. Every cappuccino costs the same, just shy of  £3. But half are undrinkable.

The best was Monmouth Coffee,  with organic milk de rigeur.  And perfect Pastries.  And a luxuriously sensual and trusting retail environment.

And then I walked into Mecca (Neil’s Yard Dairy).  I had no idea what to expect from this store.  It was a mix of fish-shop washed floors and minimalist art gallery in which the cheese mongers' enthusiasm animated the air.  I tried to just look and not taste as I was trying still to enjoy the underwhelming vanilla donut I'd just eaten,  but they insisted,  further showing their love for the cheese with annoyance when I wouldn't eat the rind.
And those cheeses grew on me fast. They were so delicate! Each one had the names of the people who made it. They cut the cheese with a wire,  so they could sell tiny amounts ( rather then claiming the cheese can't be cut to a small piece and implying the customer is cheap, as they are wont to do in search of bigger sales at Formaggi Océllo).

And each cheese had the name of the people who  make it.  People,  making  cheese.

I'm so excited I don't know what to do with myself. I've just had the opportunity to interview and photograph Melinda Dimitriades of Farmgate. Her main thing there (surrounded with lots of other goodness) is rare breed black pig meat.

I'm going to be posting the whole interview and maybe even some video soon, but what I'm most amped up about is the PIG FAT, so it's getting its own whole post.

  1. Pig fat is not bad for you, after all. It's a big part of the "Mediterranean diet", where they eat slices of lard on toast and use it as salad dressing.
  2. Animal fat is not bad for you, at all. Indeed the #2 healthiest people in the world (after the Japanese) are the Gascon, who live on Duck Fat.
  3. Animal fat is delicious. Pork fat has one of the cleanest, lightest, tastes, and flakiest texture. This is why our grandmothers (who knew what they were doing) always used pig lard to make pastry crusts (especially pies). That kind of lard is made from just one part of the fat. The rest of the fat can be used as a high heat tolerant cooking oil (roast vegetables, etc.)

Melinda sent me away from the interview with an odd gift, 4 kilos of pig fat that I'd just been filming her trim as she butchered.

I've got a fridge full of this. People are scared of it. They've been brainwashed to believe that pork should be lean. The problem is, I've paid for it when I buy the animal, and in order to make a living I have to get as much value out of the animal as I can. And these delicious rare breed pigs, with the healthy red meat full of iron, carry more fat. They're pasture raised, so they can get a little lazy sometimes, and when it's hot they lay around more. If it weren't for my shop and me buying these pigs, this farmer wouldn't raise them. The big meat distributors won't pay for a pig with more fat.

I'm not scared of fat or pigs, or cooking, so I tried to follow Melinda's instructions. "Put it in a pot with some water and melt it. You're looking for that beautiful snowy white stuff. Once it's melted drain it through a clean cloth (I used coffee filters) to remove any little bits of meat, because those will cause it to spoil. If it's clean it will last for months."

Well I assumed it was supposed to all melt, so I cooked it all day. When it still hadn't melted I consulted the interweb. Fascinating that you can find sooo many recipes for molten chocolate cake, but almost none for making your own lard. Way down the bottom of one of the instructions, none of which were very precise, I found mention of "you won't be able to eat all the cracklings, so feed some of them to your dogs." Is this the cracklings? The pork fat that doesn't melt? Ok, I've now learned from Slate.com's  that I should have cut up the fat. This would increase the surface area so it all gets to melt. And that there's a book about meat fat which covers the topic from health science to recipes by Jennifer McLagen.

 

Well I gave up for a while and when I went back into the kitchen after a few hours, I found the beautiful white stuff!