6 Cheese Questions for Tenaya Darlington, aka Madame Fromage
In the online cheese community, Tenaya Darlington is known as Madame Fromage, and with a pen name like that it’s no surprise that this Philadelphia resident knows curd.
Not only does Tenaya maintain her own site, but she frequently contributes to HuffPost Food and the Di Bruno Bros. blog, while also teaching food writing. Having recently penned her first feature article for culture, on cheesemaker Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm, Madame Fromage was fresh in our minds as someone we’d like to hear more from. culture intern Alexandra presented her with some questions:
What inspires you when you are writing your blog?
I like to listen to Serge Gainsbourg and drink milky black tea. Usually, by the time I sit down to write, the kitchen is a hot mess from photographing cheese -- there are wrappers and lenses all over. I'm eager to escape upstairs to my little Cheese Command Center, which is full of books and good light filtering across the rooftops of north Philadelphia. If I need writerly inspiration, I reach for Patricia Michelson's The Cheese Room. The way she writes about cheese is very Beatrix Potter.
What is your favorite cheese-inspired dish?
In winter I'm all about the Raclette party. My mother is from Switzerland so Raclette is a big deal in our house. Everyone in the family gets a table-top Raclette oven as a rite of passage when they get their first apartment. I like that it's not a dish as much as a cheese-inspired meal. You just boil some potatoes and set out the condiments -- which is never a problem. Plus, on a cold night, it's a way of staying warm and eating strong cheese into the wee hours.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Definitely Mark Gillman of Cato Corner Farm in Connecticut. He makes Hooligan, one of my all-time fave stinkers, and he left a job as a seventh-grade English teacher to do it. I think we'd have a good time yukking it up, eating strong cheese, drinking dark beer, and talking rennet and grammar. I hope his mom Elizabeth MacAlister would join, too. I am intrigued by their operation and by their love of dank funk. They produce stuff that's really off the rails in terms of the American palate, and I admire them for that.
If I were to look in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
My fridge is a condiment Gulag. I live a life of pickles, jams, mustards, chutneys, kraut, martini fixin's, and boozy fruit. These take up two rows inside the door plus one whole shelf of the fridge. Right now, there's also some homemade yogurt, a bag of fresh mint from the yard, and a lot of leftover cheese wedglets that are looking forlorn (Garrotxa, Saxony Alpine, Across the Pond, Quicke's Cheddar, Rogue River Blue, Largo, and Parm). As my friends and housemates will attest, I can whip up a cheese board on a moment's notice.
You are eating cheese, what are you drinking?
I like beer with cheese, especially dark beer with washed rinds and blues. I find the effervescence refreshing. Stouts, in particular, are endlessly interesting to me -- I like to play with oyster stouts and oatmeal stouts. I also love a martini with a salty hunk of Pecorino.
What's the one thing you want people to take away from your blog?
I want them to feel brazen about trying new and different cheeses. There are so many incredible cheeses being made in the U.S. right now, not to mention imports. To be ignorant of great cheese in America is like being ignorant of butterflies when you walk outdoors. I mean, once you make the discovery, you want to feed everyone a nibble.