Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cheddar Kase

Pumpkins, wheat, apples, ales, and Cheddar. These are the foods I associate with fall, as I wrote in my blog almost a year ago. Not only are they seasonal, but also aesthetically appropriate, their golden hues similar to the warm colors of turning leaves, illuminated by the glow of the autumnal sun.

Berlin  has most of what it takes to make a simple fall lunch. There's no problem, of course, getting beer, especially in the fall, when Oktoberfest is raging down south in Munich. At my favorite Biomarkt in Mitte, and Becca's too, I pick up a brown bottle of Pinkus Special Organic Lager each time I go to the LPG, which is pretty much every day. On the label is a sketch of an old tavern, with men of yore enjoying themselves at rows of wooden tables. The tavern exists in reality and not just in seductive marketing, and Uli can point out where he once sat, savoring a beer of his own, when it was too cool to be outside in a biergarten. As much as I love beer--or any beverage with a kick--the breads are what get me in Berlin. They are so unlike what's commonly available in the States or anywhere else--dense, whole grain loaves and rolls, often topped with nuts or seeds. Some aren't made with wheat, but with spelt instead. Whatever the grain, they are hearty and substantial and certainly colon cleansing. I am particularly drawn to the breads topped with dark green pumpkin seeds, the same color as my hooded, woolen cape that I wear only from October to November. These, in my mind, are the breads for fall.

But where's the Cheddar, the best cheese to go with my bread and ale (ok, a lager)? Unfortunately, it's not easily found. There are plenty of other cheeses on offer, in particular the alpine cheeses of Switzerland and about any cheese from France. At first it didn't bother me that Cheddar is rarely on offer at markets in Berlin, but then I got a bit indignant. Why is Cheddar being ignored? Why isn't it included among the other cheeses of Europe? Unlike those other cheeses, this one is the most popular in the world! It looks, however, like Cheddar has lost the popularity contest in Berlin.

But then on my last night in Berlin, after my trip to Warsaw, where, as I wrote in my earlier post, I ate Cheddar-filled pierogi, I spied some organic Cheddar at the biomarkt. I was picking up some snacks for my plane ride the next morning and at the same time saying goodbye to beer and hearty breads before heading off to Madrid, where, I imagined, I wouldn't be finding my golden-hued foods of fall. In the fancy cheese section was a pale block of organic, farmhouse Cheddar, from the West Country of England, certified Cheddar country, according to the EU's PDO regulations. I bought some, even though I had planned to steal a wedge of the cumin Gouda I had brought Becca and Uli from the Schiphol airport 10 days earlier. It was my duty.

And it was good. It was no Montgomery's Farmhouse Cheddar, but Lye Cross Farm's organic cheese was creamy and sharp, and just what I wanted for my brown rolls, which I ate on the easyJet flight the next day. I didn't have a beer with it--it cost too much on the plane and I was typically dehydrated--but I did have a tart organic apple.

But the day after, on a bus ride from Madrid to Avila, I did feel self-conscious eating a decidedly non-Latin sandwich, made with the leftovers from my purchases at the LPG. I bet I was pegged as a German. But if the Spaniards on the bus only knew that I was eating rolls purchased from two days before, they would identify me as the frugal Brit that I am!

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