Lunch and dinner are both very communal affairs. We eat only organic and local food that is cooked in one large pot and placed in the center of the table. Everyone gets a large spoon and we eat straight from the pot. No individual plates or bowls. For my first lunch, Jean-Yves prepared steamed rice with diced leeks and carrots. He cracked eggs on top of the hot rice and they cooked sunny-side up. Only the rice was purchased from the store. The leeks and carrots came from their garden and the eggs were still warm from the hen house. Most meals seem to be a variation on this first lunch – couscous sometimes replaces rice, potatoes are added and sometimes we have a salad with lettuce and radishes from the garden. Simple and good and always sans salt. And I love salt. Tonight I plan on taking a pinch from the salt bowl and sprinkling it over my portion. I just have to.
Each meal is accompanied with a plate of goat cheese. There is always one “frais” (fresh) cheese that is only a day or two old and is mild and ricotta-like in texture, a couple rounds of cheese around a week old, and then another couple rounds that are “sec” (dry/aged) and up to three weeks old. The “sec” is my favorite because it has the most flavor. It is fair to say that I’ve consumed more goat cheese in these past few days than I have in the last six months. It is magnifique. And the best part is that it doesn’t upset my stomach like cheese sometimes does. I have a couple reasons as to why I think this is true.
First, the cheese completely organic – no chemicals or pesticides for the goats, no additives or preservatives in the cheese and therefore nothing but pure, fresh goat cheese for me. Second, the cheese is unpasteurized. When I was working alongside Victoria at Chris and Olivia’s farm in Southern Spain, I would pepper her with questions about her experiences on the chevre farm outside of Nice. Victoria loves cheese and she explained the cheese-making process to me in full detail. We also talked about the differences between raw, pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk. Back in Pennsylvania, she buys her milk raw and fresh from a local dairy farmer. She swore that it was the only milk she could properly digest because it is not is heated to kill off bacteria like pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk. This sounds contradictory, but it turns out that when milk is pasteurized it kills off all the bacteria; both the potentially harmful along with the good bacteria that make milk easier to digest. Victoria claims that as long as you know you’re getting your fresh milk from a hygienic farm, it is far superior in taste and tummy. So, knowing this, I can only assume that the same goes for raw milk cheeses. Victoria wrote an outstanding article in her blog about raw milk. Read it here.
When I explained to Jean-Yves via a neighbor friend who speaks a little English why I think his cheese doesn’t upset my stomach, he adamantly disagreed. Brushed and polished translation is as follows: “Your life is so fast – going, going, going – in America. Your body is not reacting to the cheese; it is reacting to your environment. 90 percent of any illness is in the mind and 10 percent is in the body.” And he went on, “It helps to only eat one animal protein a day. When I eat cheese, I don’t eat eggs or meat. When I eat meat, I don’t eat cheese or eggs. And so on. It’s very good for digestion.” Okay, I can appreciate Jean-Yves’ explanations and I will take them into account as well. I’ll make it my quest to eat organic, unpasteurized cheese avec sound mind and sans meat or eggs when possible. Whew.