Wednesday, September 10, 2008


While Venezuelans eat plenty of cheese, the country seems to be run by an anti-cheese cabal, hell-bent on reducing all of us to ignorance and joylessness in our ingestion of fermented, partially dried, aged bovine secretions. Cheese selection is limited. There are some local white cheeses of various moistures and saltinesses and some decent imitations of cheesy cheese, like an incredibly mild cheddar they call "yellow cheese," and there is mozzarella and provolone and parmesan. Finer stores may have aasdam, which is something like a nice full-bodied swiss. The other day I had a chunk of partly blued cheese and I almost fell out of my teeth, as it was a flavor I hadn't experienced for more than a year.

One thing that is fully unavailable is cheddar. This situation led me, on my last trip to gringolandia, to become a deportable felon: I illegally imported animal products. A 2-pound block of Cabot extra-sharp cheddar. From Costco. It's like 89 cents or something in the States. Here, its value -- especially on a nice slice of German rye with some mustard and good criollo avocadoes -- is without measure.

Finished cheese wasn't all I smuggled. I also got my hands on some veterinary drugs. It turns out that no matter how good this country may be for raising goats, sheep, and other small livestock, the veterinary medicine hasn't quite caught up. Important antibiotics are unavailable. So I hauled in a few courses of medicne for a cheese herd. If you happen to find yourself enjoying any of the Caracas region's excellent artesenal goat cheese in the next year, you may be eating a molecule or few that I carried with me in the suitcase.

Fortunately, for all the fear and the talk about insecurity, Venezuelans are pretty chill when it comes to actually searching bags and rooting out contraband. Both cheese and syringes made it through without incident.

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