December 30, 2018: Finding the Cheese


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There are two things about me that everyone who knows me well can vouch for: I love cheese, and I am a bit over organized. When my brother saw the book “Who Moved my Cheese,” not having read it, was sure the book was about someone like me. He said he could just imagine me freaking out if someone were to move the cheese from its place in my fridge. I can be a little obsessive, and some times that obsession can be about cheese.

,” not having read it, was sure the book was about someone like me. He said he could just imagine me freaking out if someone were to move the cheese from its place in my fridge. I can be a little obsessive, and some times that obsession can be about cheese.

When I was a cadet, our training ship docked in the port of Callao, Peru. One afternoon, I was out with some friend drinking in a little hole-in-the-wall bar, when we heard what seemed to be gunshots disconcertingly nearby. The bartender, who was probably the owner of the bar, rushed to the front and quickly lowered the roller door, that spanned the whole front of the bar, plunging the bar into darkness. We sat frozen for a moment before he pulled on a chain that turned on a dim light bulb over the bar. He looked over at us and said, “Guardia Nacional”.

Without asking he brought our table, the one of the few that were occupied, another round of beer. A woman, with a little girl who had been wandering among the tables selling bread rolls stuffed with cheese, didn’t seem to be disturbed by the continuing noise from the street. The little girl brought the basket of rolls to our table. None of us were hungry, but the little girl was so cute we all bought the rolls.

As the noise in the street approached even closer, the bartender, motioned to everyone to be quite. We sat in silence, washing the crusty rolls down with deep swiggs of beer, listening as the sound abated. The bartender served another round and left the door closed until well after sounds of conflict could no longer be heard. By the time he opened the door, we had eaten all the rolls and were ready to head back to the training ship.

That night we had a good story to tell the other cadets. Over the years, with each retailing, the Guardia Nacional morphed into the Shining Path Guerrillas, without my not even noticing. When I started writing this post, I clearly remembered the barkeep’s words. He had not said anything about the Communist. A little research showed me that the Guerrilla war didn’t start until a couple of years after the incident at the bar. No telling why the Guardia Nacional was shooting up the streets that day, but it must have happened often enough for the locals to be blasé about it.

I wasn’t only left with a good story to tell with various levels of veracity, I had an abiding memory of those crusty rolls with exceptionally tasty white cheese.

Two years later, when the Shining Path Guerrillas really were making trouble in in Peru, my training ship docked in the Dominican Republic. Lucky for me my brother-in-law is Dominican and my sister was living there at the time. I told them about the cheese I had in Peru and how much I had loved it. They bought a ball of the cheese to take back on the training ship. During that summer my room didn’t not have a refrigerator, so I talked the ship’s doctor into keeping it in the hospital refrigerator. That worked out well, since I didn’t have to share it with my roommates.

That was the last time, I had that cheese, until today.

I was walking home from shopping the other day, as I passed a taqueria, which had what looked like balls of cheese displayed on a table at the door. I looked in and asked ¿Eso es queso? With that confirmed, I asked the price. He held up two and indicated that one was 40 pesos and the other 50 pesos. I had no idea what they were, so I got the cheaper one.

This morning, I cut some and heated it between to corn tortillas, for my breakfast. I was shocked, it was the cheese I have been looking for all these years. I will have to get some hard rolls and beer to relive my youth! But no gunfire this time!

Categories: Cadet Memories, food, Guanajuato, History, Mexico, Peru, Talking Story, TravelTags: , , , , , ,

4 comments

  1. Great story!

  2. Cheese is good. Got my Kashkaval on the Eve. Makahiki hou to you from Honolulu.

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