Friday, August 08, 2008

Pepperjack's Grand Tour Part 2

I always break my promise to finish the damned story already. But I have a good excuse. Yesterday was one of the most shit assed days in a long time. I had to go to my apartment because fire alarms were being installed and I had to wait around. I decided to clean my closet out and take all the stuff to the thrift store. All went well until, when at the thrift store, my car wouldn't start back up so I could leave. My car was dead. Husband had to come rescue me, then we were annoyed at one another over something separate that was completely insignificant. After we managed to jump the car enough so that it made it back home it commenced to re-die once it got in the driveway, but at least it was here. My cousin Fallon (Aunt Kiki's daughter) has been here for the past week keeping me company, which makes me very happy. Fallon is here because she can't stand living with Aunt Kiki, which makes me sad. I'll spare you the story, but poor Fallon had major Aunt Kiki telephone drama last night which added to my aggravation. Then, even the cat was bad and got into the fishbowl. After that I hurt my hand (it felt like a rubberband snapping inside my hand followed by searing pain -any medical professionals want to take a gander on what that could be?). So then I had to ice my hand all night while everyone sat around watching the "So You Think You Can Dance" finale in very bad moods. Yesterday sucked. My car is still dead, but Husband will fix it this weekend. That's why I married him. The man can fix anything and that, to me, is a gigantic turn on.

Sunday my grandparents are coming over because I haven't seen them all summer since they were busy taking some pepperjack on a grand tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Remember how I said my grandparents were so adorable, but that they were not without their quirks? One of their quirks is that they are completely fascinated by foods that most of us would take for granted. This is from a combination of oldness and foreign-ness I suppose. My grandmother has cooked the same few dishes for her entire life, and she is about 80. Her repertoire is pretty limited because she grew up during the Holocaust when there weren't a lot of foods and then moved to Israel before it was even a country and then spent most of her days as a young wife and mother as a soldier. For the first thirty something years of my grandmother's life there was hardly a day of peace. And by peace, I mean the opposite of war. Her whole life was just war after war. With war comes famine. They didn't have a variety of foods to chose from like we do now, so back then they were really thankful for whatever they could get and ate without complaint about the lack of variety. In addition to the wars and famines my grandparents are orthodox which brings in another elaborate set of restrictions about what can and cannot be eaten and when and how it should be prepared. Keeping glatt kosher narrowed down their choices about foods even more.

But now my grandparents live in America where everything and anything one could ever dream up to eat is available all the time. America to my grandparents is like a 24 hour carnival of foods, so things we're used to, are really new and unusual to them and surprisingly, they're really enthusiastic about trying different things. It's also kind of funny because the things they get the most excited about are pretty ordinary.

Take banana bread for instance. My grandmother Savta recently discovered banana bread. Now she is all about banana bread. She asked me.

"You have heard about this? This bread with banana?"

Now she makes it all the time.

Husband made some corn bread with honey butter one night and you would have thought the messiah had arrived in our kitchen, they were so excited. Other items they got excited about were teriyaki salmon, hamburger buns (I don't quite get this one), pizza, potatoes au gratin and mozzarella and tomatoes. Nothing though, caused such a sensation as the pepperjack.

When we have people over I like to make a nice cheese plate. I change it up a lot. I like brie, cheese with different flavorings, some interesting italian cheeses, but every now and then I really love a good pepperjack. I like spicy. So one night I included some rather pedestrian cubes of pepperjack on the cheese plate and the sky opened up and angels sang and played harps when my grandfather, Saba, tried it.

"Where did you get this?" he asked in astonishment.

Then he called my grandmother over.

"Look! Look," he said to her, "It is cheese with pepper inside of it!"

Then she tried it and the angels sang once more and they spent the next half an hour trying to figure out how some genius managed to get peppers inside the cheese.

"It isn't a sauce?" they asked.

"No," I assured them, "The peppers are a part of the cheese."

"This is magnificent!" my grandfather said.

"Where you did get this peppers cheese?" Savta wanted to know.

"Costco," we told her.

Then my grandparents decided that this peppers cheese was so wonderful, so extraordinary that they wanted all of our relatives in Israel to be able to try it, because they swore that in Israel no one had yet figured out how to put peppers in cheese. This isn't true of course, but they didn't know that.

"Ben Yusef will love this peppers cheese!" my grandfather exclaimed, imagining his brother's joy upon eating cheese with real peppers actually inside of it and not just on it or near it.

"We have to go to this Costco and get peppers cheese," my grandmother decided.

Two weeks later, right before their trip they went to "this Costco" which they are also obsessed with, but that's another story, and purchased a block of pepperjack the size of a shoebox to take across the world to Israel. The problem was that they were not going straight to Israel. First they had to stop in Paris for a few days. After Paris they were going to Slovakia for a week and then they were heading on to Israel. They would need to care for the pepperjack for about ten days before it reached its final destination and this wouldn't be easy in several hotels and airplanes.

Savta was very worried about the pepperjack. It became a major event. You would have thought they were transporting a human heart that they had to keep alive for a transplant. Of course Husband stepped in because he is a natural helper and problem solver. The cheese would need a cooler of course. That would get it to Paris just fine if they used a lot of ice, but getting the cheese past security with gel-packs would be a problem. The cheese would need to be elaborately smuggled in checked baggage. Husband managed to create a smuggling device for the pepperjack which would get it safely to Paris, but then what would become of the cheese once it arrived?

I decided to write a letter to the hotel in really bad french to see if they had a refrigerator. This is what I wrote and faxed all the way to Paris:

"Chères personnes d'hôtel que nous devons maintenir frais un bloc de fromage avec des poivrons dans lui. Avez-vous un réfrigérateur que nous pouvons le garder dedans tandis que nous restons là ?"

My french is so horrendous that this is a direct translation of what I wrote:

"Dear people of the hotel which we must maintain fresh a block of cheese with sweet peppers in him. Do you have a refrigerator which we can keep it inside while we remain there?"

I received a reply back in English saying this:

"Dear American guest, we have a refrigerator that you can use for your cheese with peppers, but we wonder why you want to bring cheese from America when France has the best cheeses in the world? Surely you can find french cheeses you like, but if you must bring cheese from America we can refrigerate it for you."

Leg One of Pepperjack's Grand Tour was solved, but what to do with the block of cheese the size of a shoebox once it arrived in Slovakia. Luckily my grandparents speak Slovakian and managed to find proper refrigeration at a restaurant near their hotel.

Finally they arrived in Tel Aviv with their pepperjack, though I have no idea how they managed to get the thing past El Al security smuggled as it was in foil and gel-packs inside their checked baggage. I can only imagine what the security screeners must have thought when they saw it on X-Ray.

My dad's younger sister lives in Israel. She emailed us when Saba and Savta and the Pepperjack arrived safely.

"You let them bring a five pound block of cheese all the way from America on a ten day trip across Europe?" she wrote, "Don't they know we have cheese with peppers in it here? I tried to tell them but they said it wasn't the same and all they can talk about is Costco. Can't you guys take them to Disneyworld or something? You should see my father with this cheese. He's cutting pieces of it off and giving it to my neighbors. He's divided it up between all of his brothers. I think my parents need to get out more."

In any event, I can't wait to see my grandparents this weekend. I'm wondering now, if they were so excited to bring pepperjack all the way to Israel, what might they have brought back FROM Israel? I'll let you know.


100% julie said...

as always, i'm an avid reader and thank you so much for this story. similar backgrounds, different kinds of cheese in my family though... :) thanks - it was what i needed to improve my grey non-stop rainy day in são paulo

Karen said...

Maybe something truly revolutionary, like pantyhose.

JoeinVegas said...

Cheese with peppers in it? How amazing!

To me Costco is better than Disneyland. You made the right choice. (and it's probably cheaper too)

Emily said...

Your fax exchange with the hotel in Paris is priceless. I'm sure that had the entire staff laughing, both about the translation and your grandparents' desire to bring a ridiculous amount of cheese to France of all places.

Julian Hsu said...

The part about the English language reply from the French hotel had me in stitches. It read like some industrial mishap through Google Translate. :-)

Monda said...

Pepperjack. From Costco. I'll bet they come back with Velveeta.

sadianne said...

I love the stories about your family. I can almost see the expressions on their faces as they hail the cheese with the peppers.

Thank you for the smile!

Mel said...

We may be of similar backgrounds, my grandparents hailed from Latvia and I think it takes that heritage to truly appreciate your story. Thanks for a truly wondeful 10 minutes.


KT said...

What a great post! And that fax from the French hotel was CLASSIC :)

Anonymous said...

That is hilarious.

My own foreign grandmother is very mystified by some American things like celery sticks with peanut butter.

TK said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful grandparents! The traveling pepperjack story is classic, and the French reply in English to your inquiry is so stereotypical of self centered, haughty France. But the funniest part is that they were mostly right and actually fairly polite about it, at least as far as pepperjack from Costco is concerned. I'm sure that the French forget that Americans also currently make some incredible artisan cheeses and world class wines to go with them, especially here in California.

~Mad said...

THAT was a great story!
~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

Kimberly said...

My MotherInLaw would do this. I have seen her buy stuff in Hungary and keep it until we arrived in Prcanj, Montenegro after stopping in Berane! *laughs*

Whiskeymarie said...

I love that you not only humored them, but you all then helped design elaborate plans to smuggle the cheese into Europe.
You should buy them some Easy Cheese (the cheese in the can)- I think it would guarantee hours, if not minutes, of entertainment.

Crabby McSlacker said...

After reading this wonderful story, I shall never take pepperjack cheese nor The Costco for granted again.

Well, yeah, I will, but what a hoot.

Eric said...

Yea Costco. I work for them in their corporate offices here in Issaquah WA and I love it when I read all the positives. Makes me proud.
Regardess lovely story and I loved the bad french with the not really unexpected reply.

BohoPoetGirl said...

This is officially my newest favorite blog and I am so adding you to my blogroll. This post had me laughing so flippin hard my face now hurts.

Plume said...

Apropos of your grandparents and french, I translated your text about the "leg of wheel" in french so that my mother, who is jewish, could read it.
If you want I can send it to you and you could put in on the blog.
I think you have a mail but I couldn't find it on the blog, my mail is clairedotplume11atfreedotfr

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