Living for the Weekend Cheese: Oxford Isis

Cheese of the Week, Living for the Weekend Cheese, Not about cheese, Uncategorized

IMG_7082Ah, Isis. How could Oxford Cheese Co., naming this honey mead-washed triumph in 2003, have predicted that its lyrical associations of punts sliding over the placid waters of The Isis would become overshadowed by something so diametrically opposed?

Stemming from this has been a surprising trend of everything from TV shows to Ann Summers feeling it necessary to publish disclaimers that the Isis they’re referencing is not “that Isis”. Other companies have felt the backlash to such a degree that they’ve rebranded, jettisoning the increasingly toxic tag entirely.

I contacted Oxford Cheese Co, and they reported that, while “Sales have not gone down visibly, we have had some IMG_7085retailers and restaurants stop taking Isis cheese. Also we have had a couple of weird phone calls threatening us with violence unless we changed the name of our cheese.”

Woah. Don’t freak out, Isis terrorist group haters! You’re letting them win. Isis was an ancient Egyptian river goddess; The Isis is a river in Oxford; Isis is a thong, baby doll, and plunge bra by Ann Summers; most importantly it’s also a fantastic, award-winning cheese.

But it stinks. Oh yes, a triple bagger for the fridge and no mistake (probably a DEFCON 3 to Époisses’ or Stinking Bishop’s DEFCON 1). Washed in five-year old Oxfordshire Honey Mead, this creamy, pasteurised cow’s milk disc has a glittering golden rind extremely sticky to the touch, like a paper bag of sweets left too long in the car. It’s aged for six to eight weeks, and when it arrived at my door from those kind people at The Cheese Market it had a quite a springy semi-soft texture.

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As is often the case with washed rind cheese, the smell was by no way an indicator of the strength of flavour, which was fairly mild, tangy and meaty (those medieval monks what came up with this technique didn’t get their pious hands on a whole lot of filet mignon in those days, so these kinds of cheeses were intended to be a stand-in). Crusty bread helped to rein in the odour a touch, although the juxtaposition of relatively meek interior with virulent stench is all part of the magic and joy of a successful washed rind cheese.

We (imaginatively) drizzled over some orange blossom honey, and as the local Co-op aisle yoofs hadn’t even heard of mead, paired it with some tasty honey ale.

A friend tasting with me said that a mouthful of honey-drizzled Oxford Isis transported him back to a simpler time of robbing the rich to give to the poor. I’m not sure how helpful this comment is generally, but considered in the context of him as a lover of tradition, perhaps it can be seen as aligning Oxford Isis with some intrinsic idea of Englishness. Exactly like punting along The Isis.

So show your support: pick up an Oxford Isis, get your hair cut at Isis hair salon in Blackpool, buy an Ann Summers thong, or just start referring to the terrorist group by its toilet detergent Isil name instead. Or even just as IS. Or will we have to stop using the word is then?

Je suis Oxford Isis.

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Next week: non-political cheese

Photo Diary: Alba White Truffle Fair, Piedmont

Not about cheese, Photo Diary

Apologies once more for the irregularity of these posts. I think irregular may be the new regular.

This late post was partly because I had the good fortune to attend the Alba White Truffle Fair earlier this month. You can read about some of what I got up to at World Travel Guide.

From a cheese perspective, I spent one, glorious evening with some pancetta crudo, bread, and a slab of Castelmagno. My first time. It was wonderful, like a Caerphilly with attitude. GB cheesemakers: we need a domestic response.

I’m working on catching up with scheduled cheese posts, but until then here’re some images from the truffle fair:

Medieval shenanigans surround the fair, the highlight of which is a donkey version of the Palio di Siena.

Medieval shenanigans surround the fair, the highlight of which is a donkey version of the Palio di Siena.

The magical Alba White Truffle. Check out its current price per 20 grams at www.tuber.it. Click on the truffle stock market.

The magical Alba White Truffle. Check out its current price per 20 grams at http://www.tuber.it. Click on the truffle stock market.

Truffle Dundee makes a sale. All the truffle sellers are real characters.

Truffle Dundee makes a sale. All the truffle sellers are real characters.

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Professor Calculus says, “Just sniff it.”

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 Mandy Patinkin needs to up his truffle selling game

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Where do I get me one of those t-shirts?

The tshirt is only the beginning of how awesome this guy is.

No pigs used for truffle hunting in Italy, only dogs trained with truffle oil-doused tennis balls.

No pigs used for truffle hunting in Italy, only dogs trained with tennis balls doused with truffle oil. Training starts at 3 months, and the truffle dog is ready after three years. There is even a truffle dog university in Piedmont. 

Also for sale are a lot of mushrooms, salami, Piedmont's stellar cheeses, and artsy craftsy items.

Also for sale are a lot of mushrooms, salami, Piedmont’s stellar cheeses, and artsy craftsy items.

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"What do you mean 'no corkscrew'?"

“What do you mean ‘no corkscrew’?”

Next time: Appleby’s part deux