I have been a member of this community for just over eight years now and I’ve been reflecting on how my feelings about the monastery have changed in those years. I realize I’ve moved from being a polite guest to a family member with my own likes and dislikes.
What set me off thinking about this was the question of the temperature of cheese. No, I’m not being frivolous. Those small things, in the context of community, especially when added together, are a constant and real source of challenge, but I recognize that my response to them charts the course of my monastic “career” to date.
I like cheese. I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m cheese connoisseur but I’ve taken the trouble to find out a little bit about cheeses and tried lots of different kinds over the years. One thing I’ve learned is that the flavor of cheese develops at room temperature, whilst if eaten straight from the refrigerator the majority of cheeses are simply a lump of fat, distinguishable only by different colors and by slightly different textures (although my observation is that texture is also affected by temperature and there is a more noticeable difference if the cheese is at room temperature.)
Now, lots of people I know serve their cheese cold and, as a guest in their homes, I take it as it comes and say “thank you.” That’s how it was when I came to the monastery. I was so excited to be here, that I never even thought about the temperature of the cheese. Then I started to notice, about a year in, that it wasn’t quite as I liked it, so occasionally, I’d take a slice into my bedroom and let it “stand” before eating it. Three years on, I was at the stage where I would voice my feelings about the temperature of cheese to sisters I knew well. Six years and I would say it to anyone whether they wanted to know or not.
And now? I buy cheese instead of candy. Different types of cheese, which repose in the refrigerator, clearly labelled, and which are taken out to “air” before I eat them as an evening treat. I feel completely at home with my cheese routines now, because this IS my home and it’s okay to eat my cheese the way I like it!
Karen Rose, OSB
(Photo is of curds being stirred during cheese making at Common Ground Garden - the closest I could find to a "cheese" photo!)