The Language of Cheeses
My book club recently read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It’s a very good story, set in San Francisco, about a wayward homeless girl who gets herself back on track by working as a florist. Her talent for arranging bouquets, which almost work magic for those who buy them, comes from her foster-mother who taught her “the language of flowers” as a child; the Victorian custom of sending messages through bouquets in which all the flowers convey a message through their symbolism.
My book club is also a bit of a food club and I, in particular, really like to theme the food to the book of the month. Many flowers are edible, so I tried to think of ways to make a dish using flowers and, of course, cheese came to mind. I decided to do a lavender chevre and I made rosemary flatbread crackers to go with it. Lavender stands for “devotion” and rosemary, that’s for “remembrance” (Hamlet, you know?). I wasn’t really trying to send a message with my cheese and crackers, but the hors d’oeuvres ended up having a lovely sentiment.
I used Debra Amrein-Boyes’ basic Fresh Goat Cheese recipe. It uses a mesophilic starter and just a tiny drop of rennet, which creates a very delicate curd that I drained in my wacky burger-joint ketchup and mustard bottle molds to form perfect chevre logs. As I scooped the gel-like curd into the molds, I sprinkled dried lavender (from my balcony garden) in a bit at a time. Once I unmolded the logs and was ready to serve, I also rolled them in a bit more lavender, because it had a nicer purple color than the bits that had been in the cheese for a few days. Ultimately, it ended up being a bit much and the cheese tasted a little soapy, which was disappointing, but a flower girl who practiced a little more self-control could make quite a nice delicate lavender infused cheese, I think.
The rosemary crackers were based on a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, which is a great food blog with consistently spot-on recipes. Click here to link to the recipe. Instead of making big flatbreads, I cut mine down into rectangular crackers. They were thick and a bit chewy, but really flavorful and a perfect (non-crumbly!) base for a cheese spread.