Most of the cheddar you’ve eaten was sold in the first few months after it was produced. Some sharper varieties may have aged a year or so. On the market now, however, is one nearly old enough to buy you a drink at the bar. One Wisconsin cheesemaker’s 20-year aged cheddar is now available for online presale.
Too sharp, you say? Cheese-aging pioneer Tony Hook says cheddar hits peak bitterness at three to five years. "After that, it starts smoothing out, like a fine wine.”
He and his wife Julie are the intrepid cheesemakers behind the rare batch, and owners of Hook’s Cheese Company. It’s not exactly their first rodeo: A 450-pound batch of their 20-year cheddar that hit the market in 2015 sold out within days. It cost $209 a pound, as will the new one.
Ken Monteleone is the owner of Madison cheese-shop Fromagination, a longtime carrier of Hook’s Cheese. Like most cheese-keen Wisconsinite, he expected Hook’s 2015 batch of super-aged cheddar to be too bitter, too strong. “It was actually very smooth and buttery,” he says, “with all these layers of flavor and these calcium crystals you’d typically only see with parmigiano reggiano.” He’s now fielding orders from all over the country for Hook’s new batch.
Monteleone insists that Hook’s is one of the best aged-cheddar makers in the country: “They’re the people everyone looks up to in Wisconsin for cheddar.” And while Tony Hook is downright demure, this 20-year batch is a milestone in more ways than one. With its maturation, he’ll have been quietly making cheese for 50 years.
Tony started working in cheese right out of high school. “Worked there while I went to college, once I got my degree, it was the only business I knew,” he says. “By that point it was also a business I loved.” It was at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1970s that he met his wife, Julie. He pulled her into the cheesemakers life, though she didn’t need much hand-holding. Her 1982 Colby won “Finest Cheese in the World” at the 1982 World Cheese Championship. She was the first woman to do so.
When the Hooks bought their own factory in 1987, they decided to experiment with the facility’s underground cold storage. At that time, no one was aging their cheddars past three or four years. “We decided we’d expand to at least five years, because nobody in the U.S. was going that old,” says Hook. “It was uncharted territory.”
Alone against the unrecorded mysteries of super-aging cheddar, Tony followed his tongue. Having sourced from the same dairy farm for decades, he became uncannily familiar with his ingredients over the years. He then learned to forecast flavor through the aging process, testing each batch and selling off wheels he knew wouldn’t make it to his target age. “It’s still a very good cheese, I can just tell when it’s not meant to age much longer,” he says. This time, 500 pounds of cheddar, which the Hooks squirreled away when the Soviet Union was still intact, made it to the 20-year mark.
Dale Curley, owner of Larry’s Market in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, calls Hook’s 20-year cheese simply “spectacular.” What struck him most, however, was Hook’s ability to develop the cheese in the first place. “There’s just so much that can go wrong. Tony’s a master at this.” The 90 pounds that Hook’s allocated to Curley’s retail market sold out in 48 hours online.
If the price tag startles you, know that half of the proceeds will fund dairy research at the couple’s alma mater. While the pre-sale is on now, the cheese won't arrive until Memorial Day Weekend this year. If it sells out before you splurge, Tony urges patience: “I’m not going to give out any dates—they may not even come out until I’m retired. But there will be more.”
There's a bit in The Republic where Plato has Socrates basically trash most art but he leaves an "out" for theater- he more or less says "Theatre is terrible and shouldn't be allowed in the perfect philosophical kingdom... But maybe some playwrite could come up with something that could convince me otherwise, so we'll leave that one open."
I just vaguely recall being told that Plato denounced paintings and sculpture because it was an imitation of what already was an imitation of pure forms, and the only thing worse than derivative work is derivative work of derivative work. Does that characterization ring true for you? Or is it more like a misinterpretation of this Socrates-trashing-art thing?
That's definitely in there. Socrates carved out a few narrow exemptions to that on the basis of some art having value as an instructional tool, but most of it was to be discarded because, as you say, it's getting farther from the abstract forms instead of closer. Painting and sculpture was right out, I think he was willing to allow patriotic songs for their educational value, but there's a noticable punt when it comes to plays, which I strongly suspect has to do with the fact that it's Plato who was writing all this down.
There is an interesting trilogy of novels where the premise is that Athena takes everyone from history who has read and loved the Republic and brings them together to try to create it in practice. Then it follows shows all the compromises and ramifications that end up happening when you try to apply this template to reality. When it comes to art, the group ends up not being able to give it up and bringing it into the city under the 'instructional' exception in spite of Plato's proscription. But it is fascinating to read through many of the ideas as a novel and see how these abstract ideas would actually feel like if put into practice, both for good and bad. The first one is called The Just City by Jo Walton if you ever want to pick it up.
On the ground floor of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico), a room with huge display cases holds hundreds of animal specimens. This is the Museo de Anatomopatología (Museum of Pathological Anatomy), an exhibit showing the macabre diseases that can affect animals.
The museum is visited by hundreds of students and professors of the biological sciences every year. Its oldest specimens date back to 1938, when the collection was started by Dr. Manuel H. Sarvide, who was then the head of the Department of Pathology. The museum moved into new facilities in 1971, and was expanded by Dr. Aline Schunemann de Aluja. In 1991, the collection was installed in its current location.
Among the collection you can find examples of liver with cirrhosis, tumors, lung infarctions, carcinoma of the eyes, and organs with cysticercosis (an infection caused by tapeworm larvae). All kinds of animals are included: Cows, bats, whales, goats, and even two marmoset fetuses. There are also a number of preserved parasites, from huge worms to tiny microorganisms.
Some of the most interesting specimens are familiar animals with deformities that they were either born with or acquired during their lives. Among these are a three-legged chicken; a cat born with one eye; a dog without a nose; and the impressive head of an Alaskan dog with a prominent tumor.