If you only know one thing about me, know this: I’ve made cheese.
My mom sent me my very own cheese-making kit in the mail. This allowed her to give me a gift and simultaneously assign me a character-building chore.
After reading the directions, I learned that while it’s possible to make cheese with regular milk, it’s easier for cultures to develop when you make cheese with raw milk. So I went to a local farmer’s market to check out the dairy scene.
I approached the yogurt stand. “This guy knows his milk,” I reasoned. “He’ll point me in the right direction.”
“Do you know if any stands here sell raw milk?” I asked.
He shook his head and looked a little disgusted. Someone behind me piped up, “You can’t sell raw milk. It’s illegal.”
Yogurt man sniffed, shrugged, and then said nonchalantly: “I know a guy.”
“A guy?” My ears perked up and my secret tail wriggled.
“Yeah. I might be able to give you his number.”
“Oh, wow! I would really appreciate that.”
“His name is Biff,” the yogurt man said, getting out his phone. (Names have been changed to protect identities.)
“Oh, cool! I’ll tell him you referred me to him.”
“Don’t do that,” the yogurt man said. “He’ll kill me.”
It was then I knew I might be in over my head.
I texted Biff.
He texted me back, asking for my email.
Shortly thereafter I received a lengthy email, explaining how the milk drop-offs work, and what’s expected of customers: Keep your goddamn mouths shut. Don’t blab around town, don’t put this shit on social media. This is between you, Biff, and a cow. And the cow isn’t a fucking rat.
“Sounds good :)” I replied.
Next, I got a secret link. Then, I got to make a secret profile. In addition to raw milk, I could order eggs and produce. I added a dozen chicken eggs to my order. Several weeks later, I got an email that I should be ready for the drop-off.
Biff came in and closed the door. He had the panicked air that you would expect from a man with a van full of illegal milk on a hot summer day in Texas. I tried to do some secret journalism. “Do you find customers just by word of mouth?” I asked. He grinned, sheepishly. “Yeah, we’re under the radar.”
“And you have enough customers to get by?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, backing out of the room. No time to chat. He had more milk to deliver.
To my horror, the eggs were all different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Even worse, when I cracked one open, it was weird inside.
I screamed. This egg had almost no albumen. Its bloated, dark-orange yolk had a thick, mucousy membrane and a vibe that I can only describe as “fertilized.” “Naw dog,” I kept repeating, as I paced up and down my studio apartment, glancing nervously at the egg. “Naw dog. Naw.”
After a few moments of this, I threw that shit in the trash. I thought about chucking the remaining 11 of its demon brothers just to be safe, but then I remembered how much these eggs cost ($7).
I don’t have the right kind of pot to make cheese. I found a friend with the right kind of pot and used Ted Bundy-esque psychological manipulation to convince her she wanted to make cheese with me. At least, that was my initial plan. Winnie was shockingly on board with me compromising her kitchen for this pain-in-the-ass recipe. The girl loves her cheese! We read the 20-plus steps, donned aprons, and laid out the ingredients.
Immediately, the cheese lulled us into a false sense of security.
It was nice and coagulated, and the curds had reached the “texture of soft scrambled eggs” as the instructions read.
“Curds” are the milk-fat dream clouds, and “whey” is a yellowish liquid that remains.
When we reached the initial coagulation, we thought we had arrived. But as I pulled the curds to complete the last step, the mass got tougher and tougher. I bit into a sample curd and it squeaked so loudly I knew everything had gone horribly wrong. My eyes turned black with rage. Continue reading