Sunday, 22 July 2012


A bit like, it appears, Angus Robertson MP, I am a great man for giving the public what they want.

Accordingly, earlier today, I conducted a brief opinion survey, via twitter as to the subject of this, my final pre holiday blog.

I'm not one for confusing issues with a multiplicity of questions (regular readers may already know that), so I offered a simple choice: Scottish politics or Italian cheeses?

Given my conceit over the value attached to my political opinions, I was rather taken aback at the unanimity of the response. I was tempted for a moment to conclude that this was an organised attempt by the YES Scotland campaign to silence one of  their critics but that would force the conclusion they are better organised than might be immediately apparent. Or possibly obsesssed with cheese, perhaps as a result of the appreciation of the incongruity of the very concept of Scottish Cheddar.

Detailed poll analysis however led to the conclusion that the cheeseophiles belonged to all Parties and none, united, it appears, only in their common love for rennet. So cheese it is.

The problem then however is that there is only so much you can say about cheese. Not that it is not a noble subject, its just that it is more appreciated by eating than reading, ideally with a decent glass of wine.

Obviously it is possible to write about the colour, the texture, the method of manufacture but, to be honest, that's a pretty boring list. Cheese is really all about the smell and in that context the comparisons one might immediately choose would lead the proverbial, recently arrived, Martian to suspect that the entire human race had lost their collective marbles.

But I love cheese and amongst the myriad cultural, literary and, lets be honest, meteorological delights I anticipate experiencing on my forthcoming Italian expedition, eating a lot of cheese is right up there at the top of that list.

But which cheese? All and any might be the immediate response but that would bring the blog to a rather premature end.

So I'll start with the local speciality, Pecorino Toscano.We're not actually in Tuscany, as we're just over the Umbrian border. But the Province of Siena is just ten miles away and if there is a finer cheese in the whole world than Pecorino di Pienza then I've yet to encounter it. 

You get pecorino here in Scotland of course, but it is invariably pecorino stagionato. Hard and, in domestic usage, mainly used gratinato on pasta. Pecorino di Pienza does, of course come in  in the stagionato variation but the real treat is Pecorino Fresco. Soft, sweet, creamy. The Martians will just have to accept that it smells a bit of old socks but the taste......... Ideally taken with a grape or two, and honey for a real treat. And the wine? From Montepulciano, just up the road.

And then you have scamorza affumicata. Really a southern cheese, originally from the wonderful province of Bari. Pear shaped, golden skinned, smells very slightly of the Adriatic (at least in my head) and tastes like smoked milk. And I mean that as an unconditional compliment. Perfect with soft fruit, and cold white wine. Orvieto classico., or even amabile if you like that sort of thing. 

Now I appreciate that the cheese fanatics could probably read this sort of thing all day but I have to have some regard for my other readers, so I'm afraid I'm going to skip over provolone, taleggio, the much (IMHO) under-rated dolcelatte, casciotta, even fresh mozzarella di bufala and come straight to the finale: gorgonzola.

You either like blue cheese or you don't but, if you do, this is the daddy. Some swear by the crumblier varieties, but I prefer it "wet", not quite so salty and perfect to allow to melt on the tongue or even swallow down whole like an oyster. I quite like it with a wee bit bread, to clean the pallet between slices, and a red grape or two, more tannin the better. If you can't run to a Brunello (and, let's face it, few can) then best to go a wee bit south for the wine as the heavier the better. The reds from Montefalco are the heaviest in Umbria and would top my list.

And that's it, for this political season. If I did just have one bit of advice for Scotland's big cheese it would be that he too should take a holiday. I've never pretended that he is anything other than a politician of the first rank but he's beginning to look a bit ragged. Political success requires not just long term objectives but short term decisiveness. Dare I say it, in that latter regard, he's beginning to remind you of a certain Fife based politician of recent memory. Maybe Eck just needs a break. Only by taking one will he, or we, know.

Enough. The sun is calling. And so is the cheese.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you gracefully deferred to majority opinion; while In Italy try some whites with cheese and recomend