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Close Encounters with Science: Picks

Shaken and Stirred by Leah Seltzer

I live in a place where the wind is a howling song at night.  Where thrusting cedar branches threaten to shake and stir your slumber.  Where the power flows through tenuous lines that are no match for the fate of falling trees.  Where the ocean meets the rainforest and spins the water around our heads for months of soggy contemplation.

In this place there is a village, two BC Ferries away from the glare of city lights.  A fusion of back-to-the-land dreamers and runaways, who have all got some reason to choose this modern rustic reality.  A place where you can find cell phones being used in the middle of apple orchards because that’s where you can get the best service, where firewood is bought and sold over email, and flush toilets have become a rare and debated commodity.  A place where nude swimming is as normal as going to the library, and where a headlamp replaces the city dweller’s cell phone as the thing you never leave home without.

It is here where I first discovered the alchemy of cheese.  A farming friend with a mustache and a fetish for fermentation was all it took to stir my passions and make me fall in love with curds.  With no map or guidebook to this ancient art, we dared on our way with a willful desire to remember what the modern age has let us forget.  That a little bit of acid mixed with farm-fresh milk, stirred and strained, gives you the taste of a certain resilience.  That cheese is made from curds who have gone and lost their whey.

Held and suspended in their cheesecloth ball, these curds, mixed with salt, become the sermon of Sunday mornings.  Sprinkled fresh in a breakfast omelet, I can somehow feel the world grow a little more whole.   In this curdling in the kitchen, I can glimpse the faintest remedy for a culture that’s been aching for a taste of where we’re from.

From the hands that are calloused by the grip on her udders.  From knowing the ways that our pasture will grow. From axes and hatchets and time for the sunrise.  From pulling up beets in the wet and heavy earth.  We’re from slower and stiller and storms that surrender.  From the moss that smells alive even more when it rains.  From the breaking of ground for the crops in the springtime and winds that decide when to stay and to go.   From the weaving of baskets to carry our stories. We’re from memories of alchemy and sermons of cheese.

Leah Seltzer is from Manson's Landing, BC.

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