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Berra Circular VIII: Seas of cheese

When the going gets tough, and the stomach acids flow
The cold wind of conformity is nipping at your nose
When some trendy new atrocity has brought you to your knees
Come with us we’ll sail the Seas of Cheese
– Primus, 1991

Liddle Fact no. 133:
The largest cheese ever made weighed 23,000 kgs.

There’s a regular meeting which I’m obliged to attend every few weeks at work. It’s the sort of meeting that needs to be softened by culinary inducements, such as cake and juice. The juice is little Spring Valley bottles of orange and apple, and under the lids are these “Liddle Facts”. They’re a hazardous distraction when you’re already struggling to keep your concentration on the straight and narrow.

Wisconsin's largest cheese

Wisconsin's largest cheese

My mind went a bit weird when I read this one. The number isn’t a misprint, as the comma is included. I got so obsessed by the number that I searched Google for a while to see if I could get a cross reference, only finding mentions of the 1964 World’s Fair in Wisconsin where their prizewinner weighed in at a measley 34,591lbs, or 15,690kgs. (One website announced, apparantly without irony, “we have a picture of a replica as the original cheese was eaten long ago.” There is a Wikipedia page, also apparantly without irony, devoted to the Spring Valley Liddle Facts… )

Now, I love cheese more than the next person. I would give up a lot of other things to keep cheese in my life. But maybe 23,000kg is too much cheese, even for me? Maybe not. Maybe it’s a kind of challenge. I took my next step on the road to the 23,000kg target at the weekend, at the Silo bakery at the inner-south suburb of Kingston.

Silo is a bakery/café, cheesery and winery held in high regard by Berran locals. I went there for brunch on Saturday at the invitation of two new friends, which in itself says a lot about The Berra; here, a good proportion of folk come from ‘somewhere else’, and so as a stranger you find random people actually being quite cordial to you. I met two great women, Liz and Lee, at an exhibition launch I turned up to by myself in my first week here. I’ve been bumping into Lee about once a week or so ever since, at a random variety of places (mostly markets and vintage clothing spots), and she always stops and has coffee or introduces me to someone new.

Anyway, Silo was our first ‘organised’ outing, and on Saturday morning it’s very busy. The clientele seems to be working hard to look just Saturday-casual enough not to be posing, but also just posh enough to make everyone else look at them. It’s a bit disconcerting until you get into the vibe of the place, which is actually to ignore everyone else. There’s a lot of other things to look at anyway, including mountains of rustically-styled posh breads and gorgeous fancy sweet tarts. The entire rear of the café is an eye-catching walk-in cool room stuffed with cheese. Mountains of it. The barista flapping his hands and lurching from one minor drama to the next is also diverting.

Both Ls recommended the cooked dishes for a proper meal, but we opted for some modest antipasto and cheese plates. Emphasis was on quality rather than quantity, but that’s fine where cheese is concerned. The lunch selection consisted of a slice each of nice enough blue vein, soft and a good piquant hard goat’s cheese, centred around an inoffensive quince paste. A large dish of excellent bread was included without asking (oh, thankfully a return to civilised dining!). The antipasto had some, er, unusual combinations (eg. grilled baby octopus on pineapple, which was better than it sounds) and the symmetrically-arranged presentation of single portions really wasn’t ideal for sharing, unless of course you’re three women for whom the divvying up is not embarrassing. No amount of divvying will share a shucked oyster between 3 people though; Lee did the honours and found it to be good. The side bowl of olives consisted of a really good selection, quality and quantity of fruit. Coffee was great. I’ll be back once I’ve saved a few more pennies and worked off that plate of cheese. I’ll make room for a glass of wine.

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