I received a piece of cheese in the post yesterday.
Pleasant Valley Dairy Caraway Gouda Cheese, aged over 60 years, to be exact.
I often send food to loved ones: a small pot of homemade ketchup that exploded over a memory stick which was the real reason for the package; homemade cookies that left a Hansel and Gretel crumb-trail across the Atlantic; an advent calender to my sister in Nepal when she wasn’t home for Christmas. The distance seems a little smaller when I feel like I might have put something pleasant in the belly of someone I love.
Perhaps there is something egotistical in my desire to have them digest a delicacy I’ve made; like they are ingesting a part of me in their absence. In many ways it’s no different to writing a letter, but you just get to eat the message rather than read it. Maybe I send food because my mum always told me it’s nice to share. I also secretly enjoy licking four different types of stamps and writing addresses with a biro that is attached to a desk, when I go to the post office to deliver these gustatory parcels.
But very rarely do I receive food packets in return. I hadn’t noticed until this delicious piece of unpasteurised heaven dropped onto my doormat. I’m not fishing for perishable goods to be sent my way, but it did make me wonder why other people don’t show their affection in more digestible forms. As the ketchup incident illustrates, there are certain risks involved with sending food (we won’t mention the mouldy cake that my best friend mistook for hate mail). You have to take shelf life, collateral damage and size of envelopes into account. But that’s why I like it. It’s rather like a sonnet; working a declaration of love into a formalised structure is a demonstration of both the sender’s skill, and their dedication to the subject.
In North America, food packages are not quite so theorised; they’re called ‘care packages’ and distributed by humanitarian aid agencies and ’empty nester’ mothers alike. I once met an American guy in London who’d received a care package of vegetarian beef jerky from his mum in Colorado. There’s no accounting for what care tastes like, I suppose.
Writing this blog has cast a flash of understanding on my childhood fascination with Postman Pat. My Grandpa and I used to chat about Pat’s relationship with his cat, I would write my thank you letters on Postman Pat headed paper, and wonder why Pat never left those annoying missed delivery cards. I must have imbibed Pat’s love of delivering parcels and only now do I realise that I understood the power of the Royal Mail early on in my life.
I will enjoy a small slice of cheese everyday; dosifying the tangy, complex flavour of raw milk cheese that I can’t get over here. My fingers smell like cheese, and as I nibble on delicate Gouda for my lunch, it’s like I’m reading the letter over and over again. Each morsel of cumin seed that emerges from the cheese is an anecdote written on my tongue. In fact, Max only sent a few lines on a postcard – but nothing says love like unpasteurised cheese.