This is what I had for lunch today: crisp-tart slices of Pink Lady apples, hunks of Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar, and a handful of toasted almonds.
For a simple spread with no cooking involved, it made me unreasonably happy.
It had to be the cheese.
I haven't eaten Tillamook cheese in a long while, but one bite whisked me back to Oregon, and the occasional afternoon my family spent together in our brown Ford station wagon, packed bony-elbow-to-bony -knee like crabs in a pot, hurtling down the road away from the farm and towards the craggy, foggy, stunningly beautiful Oregon coast.
Until you've been a farm kid with dirt-packed fingernails and sneakers flecked with chicken poo, you can't imagine how exciting it was to get away from the drudgery of pinning wet clothes to the clothesline and hoeing the garden for a few hours. Especially when our destination was one of the most wonderful places on earth: the Tillamook Cheese Factory.
The Tillamook Cheese Factory was to us what Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory was to Charlie: pure magic.
It took forty-five minutes to get from our house to Tillamook, and we spent the time singing hymns and pinching each other stealthily as the wagon rolled by fields and barns and thick stretches of fir trees. By the time we arrived - rumpled, crumpled, and snarling - we couldn't wait to escape the Gran Torino and run across the vast parking lot towards the huge white factory.