As Valentine’s day approaches, I’m thinking about my number one man, the guy who’s always there for me and makes our house a home. When I wake up in the morning, I’m grateful to find him sleeping by my side, cocooned beside my belly in a lovers’ spoon; when I come home at night, he’s waiting with worship in his eyes, licking his chops in expectation of what I’ll feed him for dinner. He’s more devoted than any man I’ve ever known, more unselfconsciously affectionate, tender, doting, and drop-dead handsome–even when he forgets to put away his claws.
Taleggio, the love of my life, this one’s for you!
‘Gio and I have been going steady for two and a half years now, and as cheesy as it sounds, he’s my number one partner in crime. It was love at first sight when Celest initially spotted him in his cage at the shelter. My Tribe and I had ventured to Long Island together to adopt a housemate after a bad break-up and burglary left me feeling scared to be home alone. It was Cousin Natalie who decided this Russian Blue ball of purring perfection needed to be named after my favorite food, and it was Erin who declared she “loved him” immediately upon holding his tiny, gray, fuzzball frame in her arms. Looking into her eyes, I knew she meant it, and I knew she just won herself the title of God Mamma. We all felt an instant kinship to this squirrelly little kitten who showed dueling penchants for mischief and merriment, so I brought him home. After just a few short hours he had found my feather boas and made a nest of them from which he sat royally, before jumping directly into the bowl of Chef’s spaghetti parm I made for dinner. Proving to be quite the stinker, I named him after one of my favorite cheeses–taleggio, a soft and stinky washed rind cheese from the Italian Alps.
It’s not just the girls who he’s won over with his come-hither stare–Mr. Mixologist, a dog person, has grown to love him too. I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous to introduce my men to one another, knowing ‘Gio’s jealous streak and Mr. Mix’s childhood scars from a ferocious alley cat whose wounds prompted a visit to the emergency room, but the two have hit it off, and I think they find sanctuary in each other’s male companionship. When I made my meatballs and banana pudding for Mr. Mix and his besties a few Sundays ago, there was Taleggio making nice with the lot of them, curled up and one of the boys!
‘Gio has served as an inspiration to me in the kitchen as well, as I’ve worked his namesake formaggio into recipes and cheese plates for catering jobs across the city. Though it always makes me giggle to write or read the words “taleggio” on a menu, taleggio is in fact a wonderful melting cheese that pairs well with fruit, making it infinitely adaptable, no matter the season. Perfect in a biting fondue or dressed up alongside a poached pear, taleggio is a creamy cheese with the unmistakable scent of stink that offsets its rather delicate flavor profile, highlighting pronounced grassy notes and bright bursts of fruity tang. This Valentine’s day I’ll be leaving memories of past loves and kitchen disasters behind, in exchange for a simple sandwich of taleggio and green apples on Amy’s signature semolina with golden raisons and fennel, a combination just as scrumptious as he is.
Taleggio, of course, won’t partake. Unfortunately, my man’s one drawback is his unsophisticated palate! Canned tuna fish, pureed turnips and chopped up turkey might be the extent of his feasting repertoire, but one thing is for sure, his lips have never touched that processed pet chow dreck that passes for food in supermarket aisles. Not unlike all the other fast foods flaunting neon-colored nutritional benefits scrolled across their packaging and branded as healthy, this stuff really isn’t “food” at all. As a rule of thumb, I don’t buy groceries that have to advertise their nutrients. I stick with the stuff that Mother Nature intended to feed us, foods that don’t need fancy ad campaigns or catchy slogans to prove their benefits to our bodies, foods like: milk, butter, eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, legumes, coffee, and even, chocolate. When I’m in a pinch for pet food and don’t have leftovers around to whip together a meal for Taleggio, I often opt for cans of organic baby food. Sure, it’s an expensive, luxurious diet that takes time and energy to provide, but as I see it, if the stuff in those packages isn’t fit for human consumption, it isn’t fit for my boy. And besides, a little luxury goes a long way when you’re splurging on tiny cans of carrots.
Where Taleggio lacks in taste, he makes up for in loyalty. Dogs may be a man’s best friend, but no one knows love like a girl and her cat. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day FOOD Mavens, and Eat it Up!