The Long-Suffering Husband was once asked by his puzzled father, “How many bicycles does a person need?” The question was rhetorical, but he had an answer ready.
“Everyone needs a touring bike. And a racing frame, of course. You must have a hybrid or mountain bike for rough roads. And a junker. It’s best if you can also afford a recumbent, and a tandem.” I am surprised that he did not also specify a unicycle, even if technically it does not qualify.
Lately he has been saying that the answer to this question is “n plus one,” with “n” being the number of bicycles one already owns.
Remembering this little incident, I was moved to consider how many cheeses a person needs to have on hand at any one time.
The first on my list would be a hard cheese to top pasta with. This could be a parmigiano reggiano (for you non-vegetarians), or a more modest Bellavitano or Romano. These aged, Italian-style cheeses give that essential savor when grated onto your plate of penne.
Second, you must have a fresh cheese on hand. Feta is one of the best cheeses for cooking. Marinated in oil, vinegar and herbs, it is stunning with veggies or atop hummus, in baked casseroles and on pizza. Goat cheese is equally delicious for many of these applications. Finally there is mascarpone, which is similar to American cream cheese but more luscious, sweet and spreadable. It’s fabulous on muffins, scones or toast as a a substitute for clotted cream.
Third, a Swiss cheese like gruyère. There’s nothing like it in a quiche or on an asparagus tart. How could one do without its rich nutty flavor?
Fourth, a blue cheese. A touch of blue gives extra bite to my macaroni and cheese, and it is essential for a cheese board. I sprinkle it over pears and drizzle with honey in early Fall. The creamy blues, like a dolce gorgonzola or Cambozola, make ravishing appetizers.
Fifth, a sharp, well-aged cheddar for snacking. Nothing gives as much simple pleasure as a really superlative cheddar with some grapes or slices of apple.
Sixth, a rich soft cheese, like a ripe brie or better yet, a triple cream. A special occasion cheese, you say? But like Champagne, these little luxuries should always be in the fridge, to celebrate the joyful moments in life and console us for the sorrowful ones.
The actual number is “c plus one,” but these are the bare essentials.