“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” –Henry David Thoreau
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” –Douglas Adams
the other afternoon we were driving home from running errands. my husband noticed our daughter, kaya, was asleep and so he suggested we try the scenic route home since we are still new to our island of osterøy. when we came to the crossroad we had two options: to take the milkman/bus route, or go in the opposite direction and see what lay beyond. in the past few months living on osterøy we noticed that the roads on our island all seem to go in circles, so we decided to explore. we figured we would get back to lonevåg eventually. after driving along sea cliffs overlooking the icy fjord for about twenty minutes we reached the small city of bruvik. at that point we had another juncture.
we still hadnʻt bought a gps yet and our map function on our phones were inaccessible due to being in the middle of nowhere, so we chose to go with our naʻau (hawaiian loosely translated–guts, soul, intuition). after driving up a curvy mountain road for another twenty minutes we saw a man and his dog standing at a bend. we stopped and my husband asked for directions to lonevåg because i still canʻt speak norsk. the man laughed at us and told us to turn around.
at this point, we had been driving for over forty minutes in one direction and we really did not want to just make a u-turn and go back the same way. so my husband pressed the man for another option. the man explained that there was a way. but it was not an easy route. it was not paved and you needed to pay a toll as well. but we figured, anything was better than going backwards, so adventurous pioneers that we are, we decided to give it a try.
within a few minutes we were already grateful for our choice. we stumbled upon a winter wonderland. stunning views of the water, snowcapped mountains, icicles larger than people (this is especially awesome when you keep in mind that i am from hawaiʻi), and pine trees stretching out towards infinity. kaya woke up half way through the drive and although she normally hates being in the car, even she could appreciate the magical scenery. she “oohed and awed” her way back to “civilization.” it took us over one hundred minutes longer to get back to the farm, but every minute was worth it. life is often that way.
as i was uploading pictures from our journey onto the computer a couple days later my husband and i started discussing the importance of getting “lost.” now if any girl knows “lost,” i do. it is the story of my life. i mean for most people, just being here in norway, could be defined as being seriously lost. what is a hawaiian girl from the ghetto (yes, you read that right. ghetto–not paradise) think sheʻs doing living on a dairy farm in the norwegian countryside? but it is much more than that. my entire life has revolved around being lost and found. ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you about my arduous journey to where i am now as one being jam-packed full of detours, potholes, and even landslides. my story would be like mario kart (yes iʻm old) where you are racing on one of those wildly nightmarish courses and simultaneously watching out for banana peels, and other players shooting at you with turtle shells, or striking you with lightning. or (for those of you not of my generation) i also imagine it as one of those traffic advisories that tell you to not attempt to drive anywhere and just stay home. two easy examples: 1) graduating law school, passing the bar, then realizing that i hated lawyers (maybe I always knew that), and 2) falling in love with a viking who lived almost 7,000 miles away (and these are the public-ready illustrations, believe me it gets much, much more dirty and juicy).
now as a mother, i will never insist on kaya sticking to one path (yes, iʻm thinking of that cliché) because i know how important it is for her to get lost so that she can be found. and so this post is just a reminder to myself, to my family, and to whoever else, that we should all get lost sometime. itʻs good for the soul.
there are a few things that i more than crave, instead i obsess. cheese is one. beer is another. (i will save the long story of the evolution of my beer palate for another day.) combining beer and cheese, should be a gastro holy commandment. instead, for some reason it has remained quite the classified information and everyone thinks only of wine being paired with cheese. my goal here today is to share with everyone the magic of this marriage, instead of reserving it just for the beer gourmands.
i had been dabbling with this harmonious union a bit but one week ago i had an experience that has forever been cemented into my tastebud memory. my husband and i went to brugge (bruges), belgium for the sole purpose of attending the fifth annual brugge bierfestival (one of the fantastic advantages to living in norway is everything is so close now). on the first day there we went to staminee de garre. this bar is close to heaven for beer junkies. we ordered the house tripel as recommended and it was served to us with a ramekin of cheese. the combination was blissful.
our second day in brugge was the first day of the bierfestival and within the first hour we started noticing many locals enjoying their beer with a variety of cheeses that they were bringing in from the market. i of course immediately requested that my husband fetch us some cheese. after he returned, a few flemish men that joined us at our table confirmed our theory that this accompaniment was a belgian cuisine tradition, as they also brought out their containers of cheese.
after returning home i still couldnʻt stop thinking about beer and cheese. and so i read what I could about it. (see http://www.slashfood.com/2010/03/23/cheese-and-beer-pairings-101-cheese-course/ and http://beeradvocate.com/articles/282 for further information.) apparently, the marriage of beer and cheese goes back to the middle ages in belgium when monks began brewing beers (weʻll discuss my undying love for trappist beer another day) and making cheese both to supplement their diet and income. this practice continues today at many monasteries (chimay abbey is one example).
so why is this some big kept secret? the conspiracy theorist in me, automatically thinks it is the wine industry, mainstream food and wine media, and stingy gourmets that want to keep the alcohol and cheese pairing exclusive. but that must just sound like crazy talk. cheese can compliment a wine. but for me, more often than not, the result is not so pleasant. wine is too acidic and harsh to match the many subtleties and flavors of cheese, and often after a wine and cheese tasting, your palate feels very used. additionally, it feels like one either has to have studied a complicated wine pairing science, or itʻs a pure gamble. in other words, you have to pay a lot of money to make sure the combination is just right. so why not try a pairing without the pretentiousness of wine? please donʻt get me wrong, we do enjoy a few bottles of red a month in our household. i am in no way a wine hater, but this post is about beer, so iʻll get back to the point.
beer and cheese are both farmhouse fare. historically, farmers made cheese when the milk was flowing strong and during the more relaxed months of winter, they brewed to keep busy. (our family lives on a dairy farm, so iʻm thinking why not take the next logical step and start brewing as well?) moreover, both beer and cheese find their origin in grass (beer is made of barley (a cereal grass) and milk is a by-product of livestock eating grass) and fermentation is also involved in both products. considering these factors, you can understand that the the result is a natural complementary flavor interplay.
so next time you are craving either a beer or cheese, indulge in them together. be nice to your wallet, enjoy a pairing for the common people. start your addiction off with a belgian tripel paired with a gouda or havarti.