Good Living Cheese Watch
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Sydney Morning Herald dated 22nd October, 1996

Once again Good Living shocks us with an ongoing ignorance of cheese. A full week after their bloody awards and there's still no mention of it. In fact, the only cheese reference this week is a passing use of the word in Terry Durack's restaurant review, and a promise that next week's 'Best' column will be devoted to (gulp) cheese shops.

There are a few other interesting things going on, however. Ruth Ritchie has resigned her Mouth column; apparently the foccacia are too much to bear these days. She's still going to write features, though, so the effect on the cheese count is not quite clear (no cheese in this final outing, oddly enough). The fact that she thinks of Newtown and Bondi as villages says a lot.

In a substantive case of misplaced ethics, the cover story, 'Boy Talk', looks at five men who have recently published cookbooks. Not once, though, is it mentioned that one of these men, John Newton, is a former Short Black editor and still writes for the Good Living section, while another, Terry Durack, contributes the restaurant review and Best column every week. Hello, Mr Littlemore?

Durack is also guilty of this sentence, which beats down all previous efforts at pretentiousness in this part of the paper and will probably get a prize as soon as Gusworld can think of one:

There is a gentle low-key hubbub that flows gently over the room like an audible vinaigrette.


Sydney Morning Herald dated 15th October, 1996

OK, we were wrong. We predicted last week that the Good Living Cheese Awards would leave the pages of this week's issue awash with curds. Obviously they missed the section deadline, or just got sick of cheese, because there's not a word about it in today's issue.

Instead, we have the standard parcel of miscellaneous cheese references. Long Black tells us that Stephanie Alexander will open a food store next year which will include "a temperature-controlled cheese room inspired by Neal's Yard Dairy in London. Ruth Ritchie samples "a salad of roast beetroot with beanettes, spinach and Roquefort cheese croutons", which she has the nerve to describe as "simple, clean food". And Jill Dupleix goes nuts for salad dressing, including not just the traditional parmigiano in the Caesar but also a blue cheese dressing for particularly butch lettuces.

The only pleasing development in this issue is the announcement of a contest to find cafes in Sydney which serve decent tea, which makes a nice contrast to the coffee obsessions this mob normally indulge in. But don't be fooled. The following sentence is all the evidence you need that pretentious isn't dead yet around here:

Even the good old Caesar, Nicoise and Greek look as fresh as this year's asparagus, poached egg, fried haloumi and garlic-toasted breadcrumb salad.

Excuse me, I'm off to make a milkshake.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 8th October, 1996

Last week, we had cheese frenzy. Next week, when the Good Living Cheese Awards take place, we will have cheese frenzy mark II. To give us all a bit of a breather between cheese frenzies, this week there is only one item concerning cheese in the whole of the Good Living section. Self-promoters everywhere will not be surprised to learn that it concerns the upcoming awards. The word 'cheese' is only mentioned six times, and there are no synonyms.

Proving, though, that cheese isn't everything, inner-city urban snobbery reigns supreme throughout. Witness this comment from Ruth Ritchie:

Drinking coffee has become such a public experience that the sight of a coffee cup in a home looks nearly as foreign as a parking meter.

Last time I checked, I had something like 30 coffee cups kicking around the place, and I live on my own. I wonder if Ruth knows how to plug in a kettle?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 1st October, 1996

It's happened. Welcome to the cheese apocalypse. On the front cover of this week's Good Living, the word "cheese" appears 31 times. That's in its raw form; we were too exhausted to count the bries, ricottas, rinds and other specific descriptions. This cheese explosion can only mean one thing; the Good Living Cheese Awards are on soon (October 13, to be precise).

To promote this venture, Good Living gives over its main feature to a celebration of cheese. Adding 80s-centric insult to injury, the article is entitled 'The Culture Club'. We can't give you every cheese reference, obviously (as well as the 31 already cited, the word 'cheese' alone appears another 52 times in the main body of the article); to do so, we'd have to type in the whole thing. But just a few select sentences will give you the flavour:

Deep down, all of us are looking for the perfect cheese.

These are exciting times for Australia's small quality cheeses.

Most of Australia's small cheesefarmers [farmers?] have a very personal vision of their product.

"I want to see a little cheese factory within a half-hour's walk of everyone." [First, find an Australian willing to walk for half an hour on a regular basis.]

Nor is the cheesiness confined to this single article. Ruth Ritchie squeezes in the customary references to tarts crammed with goat's cheese and pies featuring feta. And then Jill Dupleix's recipe column (heading: 'Curds and ways') gets in the word cheese another 29 times while savaging the concept of a mornay. It's enough to make your stomach curdle.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 24th September, 1996

It's a life of endless and bitter disappointment being a cheese critic. You go away for a couple of weeks, and you hope you'll come back to a fresh new expression of extreme up-yourselfness, and a stack of cheese references. Only one of these predictions turns out to be true.

With the release of the Herald's annual Good Food Guide, the air of smug self-satisfaction is even more palpable than usual. The paper goes so far as to credit the new guide with increasing attendance at one restaurant, a remarkable claim considering it was written before the release of the book. In amongst all this, though, the cheese was lost. Even with an extra four pages to spruik the new tome (news values? yeah, right!), all we get is one solitary reference to Simon Johnson, a providore who has encouraged Australian cheesemakers. At least now we've got someone to blame.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 27th August, 1996

This week, Good Living has succumbed to something like the cheese equivalent of premature ejaculation. Last week, you may remember, we predicted that the section was on the verge of a veritable cheese orgy, and cited a reference to Milawa Gold as evidence. It turns out that that was in fact the climax.

This week only manages a paltry reference to grated reggiano on the cover, and a couple of scoops of the compulsory "really good" grated parmigiano with Jill Dupleix. It's nice to see her acknowledging the virtues of spaghetti bolognese, but still, after the excitement of last week, we confess to being a tad disappointed.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 20th August, 1996

For Good Living, cheese is a bit like sex. The first few references are subtle, shy, tentative. Slowly, seductively, they build in tempo and frequency. Then, suddenly, you reach the cheese climax and there's more rind than you can shake a stick at. Normally, this process takes weeks, but sometimes the whole crescendo is played out in a single edition.

In cheese/sex terms, Good Living has gotten past the foreplay and is on to the regular thrusts of the main event. In this week's issue, we have Short Black crunching its way through "an imported cheesebread made from manioc flour", Ruth Ritchie chowing down on nachos and then gorging herself on a "lavash roll of tuna, tomato, fetta cheese, basil, lemon and shallot". Huon Hooke's wine guide pairs various reds with hard cheese, aged cheese (my fridge is available) and "washed rind cheese, such as Milawa Gold". Mentioning Milawa in these pages is a sure sign that the explosion can't be far away. We await the inevitable outcome with distaste.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 13th August, 1996

A compact and yet strangely extensive set of cheese references this week. Not only has Ruth Ritchie not written about cheese, she has written a column about bread which is damn funny and actually makes sense. Nice one!

Back at Short Black, though, it's business as usual. First, under the heading 'Spring In Their Step', we get this:

Is this the first sign of spring? Having been out of action since May, the sheep on Kangaroo Island have started providing enough creamy milk for their exquisite sheep milk fetta, haloumi, manchego and kefalotiri again. Manchego is a traditional Spanish hard, white salty cheese with a caramel finish which is terrific for stuffing ravioli; fetta is that lovely crumbly, salty cheese often baked into dishes, and kefalotiri is a harder, salty cheese with a nutty finish.

A bit further down, the Meat Boutique (??) has this on offer:

. . . his superb handmade sausages such as boscaiola with porcini mushrooms, smoked massan cheese and fresh peas. Along with fresh ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, smoked salmon and Maggie Beer pates, there is a small range of ever-fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, bocconcini and ricotta.


Sydney Morning Herald dated 6th August, 1996

The cheese is coming! The cheese is coming!

Yes, Good Living has announced the details of its 1996 Sydney Cheese Awards, which will be presented on October 13. At the Regent (which co-sponsors the awards), we can look forward to such 'treats' as public tastings, cooking lessons, cheesemaking sessions and matching classes for wine and cheese. In the meantime, we've got the first of what will presumably be an occasional series of cheese-related stories promoting the awards. This one concerns Edith goat cheese, which comes with a "striking black ash coat" and has already won the Arnott's Water Cracker Cheese of the Year, awarded by Gourmet Traveller. We can't bring ourselves to quote much of this article, but we will bring the following to your attention:

Will Studd, the cheese expert and organiser of the Arnott's awards, believes that while goat's cheese is popular at the moment, with an increasing number of more complex varieties like ash and matured, the next trend will be towards hard cheeses with natural rinds.

Everyone else chips in to break the recent Good Living cheese drought. On page 4, Huon Hooke comments apropos of all-champagne dinners (and aren't they a burden?): "By the time the main or cheese course arrives I'm always hanging out for a red." Must be quite a sight. Jill Dupleix adds some grated "Parmigano or pecorino" (so nice to have a choice) to her Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Black Olives and Chilli. Ruth Ritchie is somewhat subdued, but does manage to refer to nachos.

Annoyingly, a discussion of the resurgence of the local pub (translation: inner city pubs are turning into pretentious wanker zones) points out that "The beef may not be kobi but the cheese is a good Gruyere, not supermarket cheddar". I wonder when anyone on this rag last ate supermarker cheddar? It's worked for me, I'm telling you. It also hasn't done too badly for Kraft, who have an ad on page 2, proclaiming their success in the recent World Cheese Championships in Wisconsin. Oddly enough, it was these very championships that Good Living dissed out on back on May 28, on the grounds that too many American cheeses won prizes. Wonder if they'll dare do it again?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 30th July, 1996

When we called last week's two cheese references low-speed, we didn't realise that this week we'd arrive at the cheese equivalent of a permanently stalled motor. There's just one lousy mention in this week's issue, so we may as well quote it in full:

The menu includes such staples as vegetarian lasagne and goat's cheese souffle.

No prizes for guessing that this is Ruth Ritchie. We're a fickle bunch, aren't we? We berate them constantly when they talk about cheese and then attack them when they stop. I think it comes from a sense of fear, like the honeymoon period after a Liberal government before they start cutting off all the funding, stoning single mothers and migrants and reintroducing national service. If this is the quiet phase, who knows what horrors are ahead?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 23rd July, 1996

It's another low-speed week on the plains of curd, we fear. Ruth 'Ricotta' Richie tells of how she improved her baguette at the Ikea Cafe by adding some cheese to it, and Jill Dupleix suggests grated paramigiano for serving with three-bean minestrone. Maybe they're still recovering from the buffalo onslaught. Maybe they're just holding back in preparation for the awards. Maybe they'll never mention cheese again. And maybe bacon has wings.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 16th July, 1996

After last week's buffalo orgy, this week is almost cheese-free. Almost, of course, but not quite. Even when exploring the exotic food cultures of unknown countries, there's still room for cheese, it seems. Fancy a plate of aji de gallina, a Pervian dish of spicy chicken, cheese, crushed walnuts and chilly? No? Then how about a tortilla with cheese sauce? In fact, this last one is an early contender for the Least Pretentious Mention Of Cheese In Good Living award, which Gusworld will be awarding later this year. Entries are not expected to be numerous.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 9th July, 1996

Well, you can't say they didn't give us fair warning. On the front page, the banner proclaims 'The great mozzarella stampede' on page 6, but there's an unsurprising amount of material to traverse first. In Short Black, we have the rare treat of combining name dropping with a cheese reference:

Spy actor Helmut Berger, director Lina Wertmuller and art critic and curator Joanthon Turner nibbling on tagliolini with fish eggs and chicory tips, roast piglet, and sweet, fried pastries filled with pecorino cheese and served with a hot honey sauce.

If you want something just mildly less pretentious, Terry Durack recommends "a mixed leaf salad strewn with emu prosciutto, fried capers, croutons, coddled egg and parmesan wisps". In a customary fit of psychosis, Ruth Ritchie plows her way through an "avacado, ham, English and cheese mustard melt". If you think this a surprisingly normal thing for Ritchie to be eating, you've spotted a trend: earlier on, she praises a place for producing precisely the kind of food she normally abhors:

The food - bagels, ham cheese croissants, melted cheese on Haberfield bread, Greek sald - is unambitious but a lot better than many "foody" cafes.

I guess the critic reserves the right to be inconsistent.

At last, though, we come to page six and the prize: an article headlined 'Say cheese, Florence'. The intro is even better:

Whey to go! A herd of buffalo from Italy is busy making history in Australia by producing the milk for our first buffalo mozzarella.

We could talk about this article at length, but we'd risk being physically ill. Suffice it to quote the one comment that's highlighted as a dropquote in the middle of the page:

Most of us know cow's milk cheese, ewe's milk cheese and goat's cheese. This is the final jigsaw piece in terms of milk sources for the Australian cheese industry.

So good to know they're dealing with the important issues, isn't it?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 2nd July, 1996

Oops, guilty confession time. We've lost our copy of last week's Good Living, so we can't pick on them for anything specific. However, as a scientific exercise, we'll make some predictions and see if they're borne out when we get an archive copy next week. These are our predictions:

Will they come (retroactively) true? Time, or anyone who doesn't throw out their Heralds, will tell . . .

Sydney Morning Herald dated 25th June, 1996

Good Living has had a redesign this week, but it doesn't extend to not mentioning cheese. It pops up on the front page in an article on bread (which by their standards is quite reasonable), as John Newton waxes lyrical on "one of the best cheese cabinets in the city". Terry Durack's restaurant review (which threw me with the notion that $70 for a meal for two without drinks was "mid-range") gets right into it too: "all topped with a crumbly grilled layer of goat's cheese and sitting in a pool of red capscium sauce". And if you fancy a "creamy cabbage and prosciutto pie" from page 5, race out and get the parmigiano now.

The dependably psychotic Ruth Ritchie is in a ricotta mood. In a three-cafe trip, she manages to make mention of how "Queen Street Deli is a great place to blow two or three hundred dollars on some baked ricotta and whole marinated artichokes", with a side comment on how "mixed plates can include anything from roast beef to dolmades, tatkizi, baked ricotta and eggplant" and a final order for "a rosetta roll of salami, ricotta, pesto, capsicum and caramelised onion". All that, and a "chicken avocado and brie sandwich . . . large enough to feed me and my dog". Why?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 18th June, 1996

Typically, the week that we ran late on Good Living Cheese Watch, it turned out to be a veritable cheese bonanza. Short Black on page 2 (under the stewardship of John Newton for the final time) advises: "While you're waiting, tuck into their wintry calzones (sort of popped-over pizzas) from the oven stuffed with prime fare such as Yarra Valley fetta (made by Richard Thomas) and ligurian olives". We won't even ask.

Ruth Ritchie manages the simplest cheese reference we've ever seen with a schoolgirl reminiscence of a "ham and cheese sandwich" (page 3), but quickly kicks back with "those delicious salmon cream cheese bagels".

In an article about country cooking on page 5, Jill Dupleix asserts:

OK, so we may not have a stream full of trout at the back door, spreading chestnut trees at the front door or an inspired cheese-maker just down the road - but city dwellers can still learn from their country cousins.

Dupleix argues that country folk are more resourceful because they don't have convenient shops. Considering that Good Living's idea of rural seclusion is Albury or Griffith, both of which have probably achieved their 24-hour Coles by now, and adding in the fact that I (a city dweller) don't personally visit a supermarket more than once a week, I'm not convinced. Their idea of "doing it rough" is the kind of place where "cheeses from nearby Milawa and Swissfield pop up in a thyme and Gruyere souffle, and layered raclette, spinach and olive pie". On the farms I've visited, a big chunk of Home Brand cheddar would be closer to the mark.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 11th June, 1996

Quite frankly, I'm cheesed off. After last week's no-show, there are just two solitary cheese references in this week's issue, both from the reliably OTT Ruth Ritchie. In her 'The Mouth' column, she refers us to a piece of Turkish bread "full of fine things such as caramelised onion, chicken and Swiss cheese". Elsewhere, in the wank-on listing of Sydney's 25 best cafes, there's a floating reference to ricotta.

I mean, how am I supposed to pick on these people for being obsessed with cheese if they stop being obsessed? I mean sure I could pick on them for their general snobishness, their apparent conviction that there is some kind of people-less tundra between Leichardt and the Blue Mountains and their fashion column, but it's just not the same, is it?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 4th June, 1996

Well, it had to happen. A whole week, a whole issue, and not a single mention of cheese. We'd like to congratulate the Good Living team, but there are darker forces involved. This week, Good Living has a special issue devoted to duck. Yes, duck. As in rhymes with.

How to cook duck, what to cook duck with, when to eat duck, why you should eat stuffed duck's feet . . . it's all here. The cheese count may be down, but the pretension levels are easily keeping up. We leave the last word to chef Tetsuya Wakuda:

We need 400 breasts a week. There's a duck breast crisis. I just can't get enough.

This is cutting edge stuff, and I just need to find an edge to cut.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 28th May, 1996

This week is Good Living's special winter edition. Winter is a time for coffee, fortified wines, woolly things and pretentious prose. And, of course, cheese.

On page 4, Huon Hooke has a list of "Great winter wine & food combos" and, you guessed it, nearly half of them involve cheese. Specifically:

By Good Living standards, these are almost normal. But back on page 2 there's the kind of poncing about over cheese judging that gives cheese a bad name. To whit:

WORLDLY CHEESES? Without wishing to detract from the achievement of Victoria's Jindi Brie in winning the Best of Class soft cheese, "Brie", or Kraft for winning the Best of Class Hard Cheese, "Romano" (American for parmesan-style) and Second Award "Parmesan" cheese in the recent 21st annual World Cheese Championship at Wisconsin, it should be pointed out that 10 of the 15 judges were North American, that there no French or Italian judges, and 32 of the 60 awards went to cheeses from America - not renowned for cheese quality. A past judge of this show, John Setchel, said the French won't have much to do with it. So, no raw milk bries were entered thus knocking out the cream of that category, and no Italian cheese won a prize. Call it the Wisconsin Cheese Championship and you'll get no argument from us, but World?

Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw. If the French can't be bothered turning up, surely that's their problem? And at least the Americans can get cheese together with hot dogs. It will be interesting to see if the same rigorous standards apply when Good Living does its own cheese awards later this year. There's no helping some people.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 21st May, 1996

After last week's mega-effort, it's no wonder things are a little subdued. In fact, there's only one direct cheese reference: "In Italy, morsels of meat, cheese fish and vegetables are dipped into batter and fried into fritto misto mixed fry" Jill Dupleix writes on page 4. (Ruth Ritchie is talking about water this week, so we'll let her off.)

What's significant is where cheese isn't mentioned. The lead article is about the dangers of food poisoning, under the imaginative title of "Food Fiends". Every other imaginable type of produce gets a run-through, but nowhere is cheese, a veritable orgy of bacteria, mentioned. That is, until the last paragraph, where, despite the evidence of the preceding story, Ms Dupleix (again) shows her true colours:

So, will tonight's supper be your last? Let's say you gobble up your oysters, salami, reheated soup, rare meat, unwashed salad greens and gourmet cheesecake and wash it all down with a big glass of Sydney tap water. In spite of the headlines, I suggest that you enjoy your meal, and take it all with a grain of salt.

If you've got cheese, who cares about life?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 14th May, 1996

Readers who only know of Good Living's obsession with cheese through the pages of Gusworld may have been a little sceptical as to just how obsessed the publication is with what is, when all is said and done, milk in a precarious state of health. Disbelieve no longer, heathens; this week's entries provide compelling evidence of a cheese fixation so voluminous it's waist deep.

The action kicks in on page 2, in John Newton's Short Black column. Firstly, we're told to "watch for the Bilson selection of farmhouse cheeses from Lactos - first out of the dairy a white mould, a washed rind and a fresh goat cheese." Then, under the heading of 'Heaven sent', we get this:

This Saturday from 10am-2pm, David and Anne Brown from Milawa Cheese will be at The Cheese Shop (797 Military Road, Mosman, 9969 4469) and on Sunday, 10am to 2pm, at Les Fromage (285 Darling Street, Balmain, 818 5529) for tastings and to answer all the questions you ever wanted to ask a cheesemaker - such as, why does Milawa Gold smell like hell and taste like heaven?

We'll save our cheesemaker questions for another time (although "Why?" seems the obvious candidate).

Over on page 3, Terry Durack is investigating pizza. Again, in what would seem to be a cheese-friendly context, the content's fairly minimal (see last week's discussion of hot dogs for another example). Terry's top tips are:

Ruth Ritchie (who should see a psychiatrist about her focaccia problem) is as giving as ever, making passing mention that "my tart of caramelised fennel and leek, blue cheese walnuts and thyme is light on blue cheese but very fine anyway". Just as well she hasn't been left to hold up the ship. Jill Dupleix also rhapsodises on the possibilities of cheese and beetroot in combination, pointing out on page 5 that "baby beets make a terrific salad with fetta cheese and spring onions" and providing a recipe for Hot Beetroot & Leaf Salad with Fetta Cheese & Walnuts. Truly. What an exhaustive (and exhausting) compendium.

Sydney Morning Herald dated 7th May, 1996

This week, we're looking at sins of omission. There's an interview with visiting US academic and hot dog expert Bruce Kraig on page 2. In 12 paragraphs on hot dogs, does cheese rate a mention once? No, it doesn't. Sure, it can pop up in the ever-reliable Ruth Ritchie column on page 3, with a couple of sub-cheese melt and nachos mentions, not to speak of the ricotta hot cakes, but not in a hot dog article. Do these people have any idea?

Sydney Morning Herald dated 30th April, 1996

Well, how disappointing. Good Living Cheese Watch kicks off and the closest I can get to a cheese reference is a couple of snide comments about nachos in Ruth Ritchie's page 3 piece . . . but no! Saved by Jill Dupleix again! Page 5 flings up a divine recipe for Cheese Gnocchi with Roasted Vegetables, and cheese pops up again in the Risotto with Zucchini and Spinach. Judging from this, the cheese of the moment is parmigiano, which I guess makes the No Frills Diet Cheese Slices in my fridge a bit of an also-ran.

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