Asians and cheese do not pair well.
While conducting research and development at Room4Dessert in Bali for a new dessert menu, I aged a wheel of camembert with house-made amaretto distilled from salak seeds.
The office above the kitchen was the only space to store my project in a “cave-like” temperature, since this was the only room with an air-conditioner.
The camembert ripened quickly. The rind developed a light-orange tint and the interior was fast approaching a liquid state. And the smell.
Being raised in a Western country helped me develop a palate and nose that didn’t discriminate against barnyard ripeness, so every time I opened the box, I inhaled deeply and began to long for cheeses I could never find in Indonesia.
My staff, on the other hand, did not have as much of a mature reaction.
The moment the door swung open, sleepy eyes from the previous night’s service would widen in shock once their olfactory senses were alert to the smell. Hands to nose in less than a second. A muffled scream in less than three. I could have timed it with a stopwatch.
Needless to say, the office — usually a traffic jam of bodies and movement — was undisturbed when I was working with cheese.
So when I heard there was a village in South Sulawesi voluntarily making cheese, and had been for generations, I had to see for myself.