Have you ever been to a food blogger conference before? I haven’t, but with Blissdom this past weekend, I’m jealous because I want to go to one. Well, maybe this is my lucky post. Jarlsberg USA is offering a scholarship to attend Eat, Write, Retreat 2012 in DC this year. I’m only two hours away, so getting there is no problem. However, with it being a week before my vacation, I can’t justify affording it. If I can find a sponsor or win a scholarship, I’m there. Do you think these cheese crackers will win them over? They look like cookies, but I promise they pack quite a cheesy punch. And look at my tiny basket. I knew I had a reason for buying it – to hold these precious Jarlsberg crackers.
To win a scholarship, Jarlsberg wants you share a memory involving their cheese, whether it was growing up or creating a new one. Funny how their suggestions involve family, friends, kids, loved ones. I bet mine is the only entry not involving other people. It’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s just the situation I’m in. I moved alone to a small town to get a start on my career. I am 2.5 hours away from my parents, my friends, my hometown. I don’t have a boyfriend or a husband. I don’t have kids. I didn’t even take Murray with me. My neighbors are spread out. All of my coworkers are either in a relationship and/or have kids. My entire department is all males twice my age, some even with grandkids. Then to top it all off, I had a falling out with not one but two childhood friends two months in a row. So for the past 19 months, I have been struggling with my emotions.
While I was doing my blog redesign, I went through older entries. I’m embarrassed at all the negativity I posted. I needed to get a handle on all this. I mean, is it fair to my readers who come here for delicious food just to read how terrible I’m doing? Back around the holidays, I managed to “snap” out of my slump. I wish I could tell you how, help others do the same, but it just…happened. Maybe I just had enough, tired of all the crap. I deserved better. We all deserve better. Now I strive to be more positive. Even Valentine’s Day didn’t bother me this year (I never had a Valentine in my life. Ever). I think one thing that helped was focusing on me. You may have noticed better photography, perhaps even more Twitter comments and blog posts. That’s because I’m focusing on me, my hobbies. It makes me happy, makes me forget about my struggles. You can’t love others until you love yourself. When my friends left me, I never knew what that phrase meant. How can you love yourself when the world leaves you? Now I get it, and I can tell you – it gets better. I still have my bad days, days where I wonder if I’ll ever fall in love, have a family, not feel like a failure. But I also have my good days, days where I can sit in my apartment in silence and not freak out at the bumps in the night (the back porch is a wind tunnel that knocks things around. One time it knocked over my landlord’s grill. Imagine hearing that big crash at midnight).
So I dedicate this Jarlsberg memory to me, to you, to every individual out there. Single or married, broken or healed. Love yourself, love these crackers. Making these crackers reminds me of the fire I have inside. As far as my new memory with Jarlsberg, now every time I walk past the cheese case, I will remember the strength I have to make it through life. I’m not sure if all bakers feel this way, but when I make dough, no matter what my mood is, I feel alive, relieved, fortunate. That I’m stronger than I think. That the reason I’m alone is because I’m still discovering who I am. I have changed so much these past 19 months, learning to find my voice, to fight for what I believe in, to always ask questions, to love myself. That things happen for a reason, and when I’m ready to fall in love, I’ll find a way to get there.
I chose these crackers to highlight the Jarlsberg cheese because there are only a few ingredients – butter, cheese, flour, and some spices. The dough can easily be made in the food processor, but because I don’t have a big one (just a little one to chop things like nuts), I did it all by hand. First I used a pastry cutter to blend the cheese and butter then used my hands when I added the flour. The dough was a bit crumbly, but I bet it would be smoother in the food processor. Then you have a decision to make – pat the dough into a disc to roll out and cut with a round cutter or roll into a log and slice. I opted for the slice and bake. Between that and the crumbly dough, my crackers are a bit rustic. I’d serve these as a snack or with dinner, but you could also pair them with a dip or a glass of wine.
And to my readers who are struggling with their emotions, feel free to talk to me. Email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. I won’t fix your problems, but I can give you support. And if you choose to remain anonymous, I have inspirational quotes on Pinterest. Remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
- 1/2 stick butter, cold and cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Few pinches of ground white pepper
- Few pinches of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup flour
- In a large bowl, mix together butter, cheese, salt, and both peppers with a pastry cutter until the butter is broken up into uneven bits. Alternatively, you can pulse them in a food processor. Add the flour and mix (or pulse) everything together until a dough is formed.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured workspace and knead gently until it comes together. If you want to cut out the crackers, pat the dough into a round, flat disk. Otherwise, roll the dough into a log. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. If cutting out, roll the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a round cutter; gather the scraps, roll, and repeat. Otherwise, cut the log into slices. Bake 14-17 minutes or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool on a baking rack.
Source: Around My French Table