Bring on quasi-job/internship #24: Murray’s Cheese Cave Intern. That’s right – yours truly has been spending her free time flipping cheese and patting down penicillium mold in Murray’s chilly subterranean caves. If you don’t know Murray’s, then you don’t know cheese. Murray’s is THE cheese dealer for cheese addicts everywhere. Stepping into Murray’s is like visiting your cheese dealer’s cheese den, complete with other cheese addicts twitching in front of the counter asking for another cheese hit.
I am a cheese addict. I enjoy cheese and I would eat it at every, single meal if I could. Introducing me to the caves of Murray’s has now broadened my cheese-eating horizons, causing me to up my already perverse cheese intake and once again, sabotaging any hopes of a diet. It doesn’t help that my fellow intern loves cheese AND food, so we’re either talking cheese while working or spending our break walking around the West Village searching for yummy ways to fuel our cheese-flipping tanks. So far, Indian kati rolls and falafels have done the trick. I suggested to him having a cheese lunch everyday where we just split a baguette and 1/2 lb of cheese, but even he thought that may be pushing the cheese limit.
So far, my favorite cave task is patting down the bloomy rind cheeses. What does that mean? Well all of those delicious white, tender rinds on the outside of your Constant Bliss or Brillat Savarin start off as this beautiful, cotton-candy tufted white mold called penicillium candidum. That soft, white fuzz has to be gently patted down to form the supple rind. Murray’s Affineur, Mike Anderson (who I like to call Mike-aroni & Cheese, although I don’t think he enjoys it as much as I do), told me that if the mold gets out of control, the rind becomes tough and rubbery. I don’t know why, but there’s an amazingly rewarding feeling that comes with helping the rind develop… who knew that watching mold grow would actually be fun?
The only downside to patting down and flipping an entire cave of soft-ripened, bloomy rind cheeses is that after you’ve zoned out and taken care of the entire cave, you can no longer feel your fingers or toes. Not only that, but for some reason, the digits on my left hand just stop functioning and I basically have to use it as a board to place the cheese on while my right hand continues to work. After I leave the cave and walk out into the warm sunlight to defrost, my entire body immediately starts to ache and itch as the blood starts pumping again and the numbness starts to tingle away.
Oh, there is one last little side-effect that *might* be considered negative. My hands haven’t stopped smelling like mushrooms for a week. I wash and wash my hands and have even rubbed lemon on them to no avail. Mushroom central. The other day, post-lemoning, I was chopping onions and garlic and started smelling the delicious aroma of sauteed mushrooms! I couldn’t understand where it was coming from until I smelled my hands and realized that I had perfectly seasoned my mushroom fingers.
On the bright side, I get to shove my fingers into my friends’ faces and say, “My fingers smell like mushrooms and cheese” about 30 times a day. What’s even better is that not one of my food-loving friends has jerked away and yelled, “that’s gross!” Instead, they usually take a meaningful sniff, contemplate the aroma, and say, “Yup. So they do.” Awesome.