Wednesday, March 5

Artisanal Me

The other day I needed some Cantalet so I went down to a new store that had opened in my neighborhood called Ye Olde Artisanal Shoppe. Although it was located on a busy Upper East Side thoroughfare, when I entered I felt that I had been transported into something out of Little House on the Prairie. The walls were lined with rough-hewn wood beams on which hung faded and stained maps depicting the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and the Cumberland Gap. Large oaken barrels filled with a variety of pickles, olives, and mushrooms stood in front of a butcher-block counter. Behind the counter sat the proprietor and next to him was a hand operated cash register that looked like it came from Macy's circa 1911.

"What do you need?" he asked.

"Just looking for some Cantalet." I said, pronouncing it kan-tall-ETTE.

"For what?" he asked, sharply.

I was slightly flustered as I had not been told there would be a quiz. "Um, you know, kan-tall-ETTE. Cheese? For a ham and cheese sandwich?" I stammered.

"Ham?" His disdain was palpable. "You were going to serve kawn-TALL-eh, a rich and creamy cheese that is surprisingly dense...with HAM?"

"Or maybe roast beef?" I answered, fishing for a clue.

"Bœuf? Kawn-TALL-eh avec bœuf?" He shook his head sadly.

"Sorry, if I offended you. I didn't know you were French." 

"I am from Wisconsin," he said imperiously.

"Oh." I gestured around the Shoppe, "Like Little House on the Prairie."  He looked confused so I thought I'd help him out. "'Good night, John Boy'," I quoted.

Through clenched teeth he growled "That was The Waltons, sir, not Little House on the Prairie."  

"Oh, right," I acknowledged.

"And the prairie was in Minnesota, not Wisconsin."

I was about to mention how tragic it was that geography was no longer taught in the public schools, but before I could he said "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"Oh, sure. I have to get back to my sandwich, anyway. Maybe I could pick up some ham?"

"Certainly, sir. Would you like to 'pick up' Kurobuta or La Quercia?"

I paused a moment and tried to look like I was weighing my options. Then I said, "How about just a pickle?"

"Jerked Habenero, Fennel Cornichon or Soy-Wasabi?"

"Um, some olives?"

"Kalamata? Gaeta? Picholine? Manzanilla? Nicoise? Castelvetrano? Cultivated? Free Range?..." He looked like he could have gone on for the rest of the week.

"Look, I'm going to have to admit something here. I'm not really an expert on artisanal food..."

"Ya think!?" he snarked.

" why don't I write some of this down and come back later when I'm better informed? Do you have any paper?"

"Of course, sir," he said, leaning forward. "Will that be Woodfree Offset or Rag Pulp Bond?"


D. McEwan said...

How about a nice, extra-sharp cheddar? (I am reminded of the Monty Python Cheese shop.)

Gil Schuckman said...

Exactly why (1) the world is going to hell in a shopping basket and (2) I never eat out anymore. You can't just get food nowadays, everything has become a culinary experience. Try living in the UK where everything is organic and free range which means, of course, that it is exactly 1.66 times more expensive and you have to hop every other day since nothing has any preservatives and has a use by date exactly the same as the day you are usually picking it up at the store!