Ah, Holey Cheeses!

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”  Charles de Gaulle

“Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended, that man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?  By foes derided, by Thine own rejected, O most afflicted.”  Johann Heermann, 1585-1647   http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh289.sht

John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

Fromagination leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to presenting native Wisconsin cheeses

This week we enter the season of Lent.  Again.  There will be riotous celebrations in honor of the French Mardi Gras.  To truly celebrate Fat Tuesday one must believe in the sacredness of Ash Wednesday.  One must believe that several miracles occurred to have the man we call Jesus be born of the Virgin and become quick and risen from the dead after his crucifixion on Easter Sunday. 

I have been disowned by the Quaker Friends Meeting in Darby because I deny the miracles of Christmas and Easter.  I deny Christ’s divinity.  There is one God.  And that God is singular–not triune.

And God truly knows what he is about when he allows mortal souls to sample and savor His holey cheeses. 

This week God revealed a true apotheosis to me.  His creation of cheese is revelatory.  I now regard Wisconsin as a state of pilgrimage.  It is no less a shrine to divinity than the Catholics view Lourdes, the Protestants appreciate Wittenberg, followers of Islam register Mecca, and aging Rock-and-Roll fans visit Graceland.

Fromagination Madison Wisconsin, http://fromagination.com/

The storefront, Fromagination, is directly across the street from the State Capitol building in Madison Wisconsin

Holy Cheeses!  Many hundreds of them greet the supplicant entering the doors of Fromagination.  http://fromagination.com/ They are like lighted votives on an altar consecrated to VaccaVacca is Latin for cow.  The owners could also have called this stop on my Wisconsin itinerary “Vaccation!”

All of the cheeses are fresh-from-the-farm and taste of the grass on which the animals feed.  Many are not pasteurized.  Most are not homogenized.  It’s the timing of any cheese older than 60 days that allows it to be germ-free and safe for consumption.  Most of the cheeses that I sampled were considerably older.

And I sampled an incredible variety.  God doesn’t provide just cheese alone.  He also provides artisanal crackers, condiments, and complements like teas, savouries, and chocolates.  I did a lot of fiscal damage avec fromage.

Fromagination Madison Wisconsin

In addition to cheese, Fromagination also has a full selection of condiments, crispy crackers, and complements.

But the best is reserved by the staff and they speak eloquently about the curing and the caring.  It’s the holes that create the sparkle.  Cheeses exude a liquor that collects in the holes.  This liquid condenses and evaporates, leaving behind a crystalline salt.  The crunch found in many of the most mature are these crystals bursting as they are bitten in the soft creamy matrix.

Ah!  Holey Cheeses.  Some of the staff recommendations that I brought home include:  Bleu Mont Dairy Reserve Bandaged Cheddar http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wisconsin/artisans/Results.aspx?artisan=7, Buttermilk Blue Roth Kase  http://www.emmirothusa.com/?id=1672, Pleasant Ridge Reserve Uplands Cheesehttp://www.uplandscheese.com/, Chalet Cheese Swiss Wheel Aged http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wisconsin/artisans/Results.aspx?artisan=16 , andAlpine Renegade.

John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

Even more cheeses are available not from the state of pilgrimage: Wisconsin

It was a fattening experience.  But that’s what Mardi Gras is all about.  Since my return from this travel experience, my wife agreed that we needed to share our bounty and host a cheese tasting.  We will have a dinner and it will, most assuredly, be a wholly holey religious experience.

Thai High

Kirk R. Brown John Bartram

A jewel from Thailand viewed through the winter bones of Olbrich Botanic Garden in Madison Wisconsin

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes…”  Marcel Proust

John Bartram Observations Kirk R. Brown

John Bartram observes the Thai Pavillion at the Olbrich Botanical Garden Madison WI

I traveled to Madison Wisconsin.  I anticipated the trip as a view to their deepest winter landscapes.  I anticipated desiccated, dry botanic bones and horticultural sculpture.  I wanted to collect evergreens and acknowledge structural habit.  I wanted to see how temperature and snow-cover impact survival and hardiness. 

I wasn’t imagining urban;  seeking an international experience;  or requiring sophistication.  I wasn’t thinking oriental.

John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

This Thai gable end is mortise and tenon construction. Gold leaf is hand applied and the roof shingles are high gloss, fire-glazed terra cotta.

New eyes.  Different landscape.  In turning a corner of a wondrous wintry collection of grasses and structural shapes, the botanic garden’s path led to a distant pavilion of gilded and graceful arches with winged pediments.  http://www.olbrich.org/

Where in the world was I?  What powerful King and craftsmen transposed the warmth of this art into such a cold clime?  It was the magic of theatrical artifice.  The view conjured dancers amid palms;  spotted leopards hunting in tangled jungles;  elephants spouting fountains of murky river water;  and people conducting their business and managing their lives in glinting rainbow of colored silk and shimmer of beaten gold.

In short, everything that a Quaker gentleman from Philadelphia should most resent, despise and condemn.

Instead, I was struck dumb.  My wife would say that it was a natural reaction.

John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

The skin of the Naga was represented by the scales of paving along the sinuous path

The path became a sinuous curve of Naga-hide.  The Hindu representation of this snake god plays well within our Christian context of being reborn within a new skin.  For me, especially, it connects with the elemental forces at work in nature.  I carry my snake stick as a talisman and also as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all things.

Olbrich Botanic Garden Madison Wisconsin Kirk R. Brown John Bartram

The Naga guards the entrance to the Asian jungle recreation

Here I found myself an heretical Christian, walking a Hindi snake-skin path to a pavilion dedicated by a 95% Buddhist-worshipping culture.  I didn’t have time to consider the horticultural implications.

Olbrich Botanic Garden John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

The Thai pavilion has a platform for dancing, ceremonial services and parties.

Then I turned around and walked back by the way I’d come.  It was obvious that a great many people had worked a great many hours to bring us to this understanding.  And nature connects us all.  It was a revelation.

Kirk R. Brown John Bartram

Olbrich Botanic Garden boardwalk over the dry pond.

A Winter’s Night

John Bartram Kirk R.Brown Olbrich Botanic Garden Madison WI

Like a tree in winter, I have been lean and drawn out.

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day-to-day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”      Shakespeare Macbeth Act 5 , scene 5, 19-28

John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

Home is where the dreams lead you at the end of the journey

I have been away too long and missed the connection with HOME.  In the olde days, I would anticipate Ann on the porch with outstretched arms and a shout down the path of, “Welcome home to Bartram’s Garden…”

Walking up the Bartram's Garden path, Kirk R. Brown John Bartram

"Welcome home to Bartram's Garden!" always greeted me as I walked up the path to the house.

So all month I’ve said that I will post tomorrow.  And tomorrow.  and tomorrow.  Because of this month of travel that I have survived, I never reached the tomorrow of my dreams. 

I’ve seen sights and dreamed dreams.  I am an olde man, after all.  I have traveled to new worlds, met new friends and gathered a great many experiences about which I need to write.  And then I never preserved a moment to reflect on all of the opportunities that I passed. 

John Bartram Kirk R. Brown Horticultural Speaker

John is caught in a frozen moment in Madison Wisconsin

Where are the reminders of the sights?  What are the addresses of the friends?  How were the experiences praised or relived or examined? 

John Bartram at the crossroads

I have traveled many roads in the last month

How many were the times that I said I needed to note this thought?  How much was the value of the moment?  How many plants did I touch that I could not name?  What was the nature of the mission and what did I bring back to the safety and security of HOME?

The value of the plants that I discover is only as much as they survive the trip.  They need to be brought home alive.  So if it doesn’t survive the trip, did it actually ever exist?  Talk to the Franklinia alatamaha.  I never answered the question about that plant.  It ceased to exist in nature. 

Franklinia alatamaha

Franklinia alatamaha captured in a painting. Extinct in the wild.

It’s time to post.  It’s now a moment in the history of the world to capture the thoughts that were bright and sparkly in their passage.