I just returned from Mickey’s Camp (no, not the one in Florida, that comes later) the fund-raising camp held each year southwest of Indianapolis. Each camper pays a nominal fee to attend the camp with all the proceeds going to area charities. I have been to every Mickey’s Camp but one, so now well over a decade of “camping.” The women campers arrive Monday morning and finish up noon on Wednesday when the men arrive to stay through until Friday afternoon. The organizers thought it would be best if I offered my seminars to both groups; so it has worked out best if I start 8:30 Wednesday morning with the first group of women (hearty souls drinking wine and eating cheese with me at that hour) then with a second group of women at 10:30. The guys arrive for their first cheese and wine seminar at 1:30; the final group of guys begins their session at 3:30.
I arrive early those Wednesdays to begin preparing for the first session, with a short window of time to prepare for the second, then for the third, and finally for the fourth. It ends up being a long day of cheese and wine for me, but it is one that I enjoy. After all, cheese and wine all day long? It can be done.
The trick is to be well rested the night before, and to drink gallons of water all day long. It is also helpful to take small sips of the wines, without holding back on the cheeses whatsoever. The crackers? Only in moderation. Seriously! The crackers tend to make you thirsty (with their salt) and the cheese accomplishes this on its own. The cracker is there as a palate cleanser between the cheese and wine pairings, just a nibble, no more. The cracker is not a vehicle for transporting the cheese into the mouth. The campers get it, many of whom have attended my sessions in the past.
Some of the campers finish all the cheese on their plates; others save some for snacks later in the day. After four sessions of this I am usually done with cheese, at least for a couple hours.
I hear that the cheese and wine sessions are many campers’ favorites. No surprise there; they keep inviting me back again and again. I always bring different cheeses each year. I doubt that I have brought the same cheese more than twice. It is easy to forget how many great cheeses exist. Even though there are many hoosier gourmets, their access to the world’s best cheeses is limited, outside of www.artisanalcheese.com. I’m glad we are there for them, spreading the curd.
- Max McCalman