We’re well into December now, so it’s time to start talking about the good stuff.
No surprise – I start planning my Christmas cheese well in advance. (I have the very last piece of that stunning one year old Red Leicester tucked away, but there are already more maturing gently, so hopefully it’ll be back in six months or so!)
But what do you get when you have one diner who is staunchly anti-blue, one who can’t eat cows milk cheese and one who’ll only eat cheddar? Not to mention the riot when the truly stinky cheeses come out!
Fear not – The Truckle Truck is here to help!
The first thing to think about is when you’ll be having your cheese.
If you go with tradition and bring out the cheese board after the main meal, your guests will have already tucked into two, three or maybe even four courses. If that’s the case, you can expect your cheeseboard to be nibbled at, rather than devoured.
Keep it simple, with three or four cheeses so everyone can have a bit of everything without fearing a reprise ofthe infamous ‘wafer thin mint’ sketch. Larger pieces of cheese will also stand up to being cut repeatedly, when your diners discover that they could probably enjoy just one more morsel, or maybe two…
If you have your main meal earlier in the day, and serve up the cheeseboard as a light supper, you can go for a few more cheeses to keep your guests entertained as well as satiated until you’ve finished the hard work in the kitchen. You can probably have some of the more unusual cheeses too – the afore-mentioned stinkers (technical term, that) are a great centre piece, or maybe some goat’s gouda with fenugreek or a truffled camembert.
Try and have a mixture of textures of cheese – a hard and smooth, something crumbly, something gooey and something ‘fresh’ (Gruyere, Spenwood, Gorgonzola and Beau Farm’s St Maure-style log, for example) as well as trying to get a balance between sweet, sharp and strong flavours.
Above all, don’t be afraid to ask your friendly cheesemonger for advice, and also for a taste. (You will be the one who’ll have to eat up any leftovers.) We’d all rather you remembered your Christmas cheese for the right reasons!
The day has finally arrived – The Truckle Truck is ready to hit the road! Whilst I had planned to visit Shaftesbury for the maiden voyage, things haven’t quite gone according to… well, plan, so the trial run will be in Peterborough instead.
After that though, Susie and I will be rolling up in the local area, with regular markets and also a good selection of seasonal ones too.
Of course, getting to this point wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of a lot of people.
Ashley and his team at Tudor Catering Trailers, who converted an empty shell according to my slightly odd requests!
Gareth and Mel at Beeson + Beeson for the fabulous designs that have given the brand so much character,
Matt and family at Clearsigns, who battled the infamous corrugated panels to apply the finishing touches,
Spencer and the team at JayLee Refrigeration,
All of the old Turnbulls customers for your patience!
And last, but definitely not least, Charlie Turnbull and Jilly Sitch, without whom I would never have started out on this road.
A few years ago, I had a phone call that turned our lives upside down. It was from my sister, who had just been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer.
We were devastated.
We were also spread out across the country – I lived in Dorset with our parents, my brother was in Macclesfield and my sister lived with her fiancé in Leeds. But Jenn asked us to do something that evening; something very simple, something very small, but something that I’ve been thinking about ever since: she asked us all to have pizza and beer for dinner.
There was a feeling of being together, in the knowledge that in Dorset, in Leeds and in Macclesfield we were all tucking into pizza and beer.
The idea that’s been slowly maturing in the back of my mind is this: Food has a way of uniting us; across distances and across cultures. It’s a universal language. You don’t have to speak a word of the local dialect to understand the look of delight on the face of someone eating a delicious morsel. People who’ve never been to India, Asia or Africa list dishes that originated in those countries as their favourite foods (Vindaloo is, of course, the red herring). Jewish and Italian foods, imported to the USA with immigrants escaping war-torn Europe, have become synonymous with American food. We learn to cook by watching our parents and then are inspired by TV chefs (love them or hate them, at least ‘food trends’ get us in the kitchen, preserving the knowledge handed down to us without us even realising it).
And it brings us together, family and friends, united by traditions centered around food, from a time when feasting was reserved for special events: Christmas and Thanksgiving, Eid and Holi, Passover and New Years celebrations all over the world. We use food, lavish and spectacular, to mark the dates that are important to us, whether they’re universal or just familial, to treat ourselves and to say to our nearest and dearest “I made this for you, because you are important to me.”
Ever since that phone call, Friday night has been pizza and beer night. It’s a way of remembering the closeness we felt, eating together, hundreds of miles apart.
Cooking tonight, a pizza Jenn would, I think, have loved, I can picture the smile she’d have (though I would probably have been only semi-jokingly chided for going over the top with the truffle oil!), and the dinners we had gathered around the old dining table, when the beer, wine and laughter flowed and all the arguments and strife could be forgotten for the sake of sharing time, and food, together.Taleggio, rocket & fennel pizza (with truffle!)
Whatever you’re eating tonight, whoever you’re eating it with, enjoy yourselves.
It’s taken a little while longer than I’d expected, but the Truckle Truck is now undergoing it’s transformation!
This lovely van first hit the road in 1969, in Loiret. Now she’s having a thorough overhaul and UK registration, before being transported to Weston-super-Mare to be turned into the cheese-shop-on-wheels that will be your go-to for gorgonzola! Hopefully, we’ll be at markets from the middle of September…