A few years ago, at the start of a century ride in a regions of the United States far, far away from Southwest Wisconsin, I heard a middle-aged guy offer up his formula for enjoying life on a bicycle. He called it the Three S Method. Sacrifice + Self-discipline = Success. Ten miles into the ride, I heard the guy explaining his musical taste. “I only sing in one key,” he said. “The key of pain.” Fifty miles later, he revealed his culinary leaning. “I haven’t eaten a piece of cheese for nine full years.”
To this day, I occasionally light a candle for that guy, in the fervent hope that he may someday figure out how to be happy.
Late one afternoon this week, the Three S guy crossed my mind. I was wandering the streets of Mineral Point in search of I didn’t know what, and I saw a sign outside a liquor and bait store: Cheese. From the pure cyclist’s perspective, cheese is fat, fat is lead weight, lead weight is to the Three S Method what a standing rib roast is to the dining table at a Vegan Commune. Obviously, I followed the sign into the store and bought a hunk of cheese and a box of crackers and snuck back to my room to develop a theory along the lines of Cheese + Crackers = Happy Cheesehead.
This was no ordinary cheese I had purchased. I had selected a wedge of Hook’s Blue Paradise – the name had a ring to it, I guess – and I can say now, without reservation, as a fan of cheese and of food in general and of all things in the world that bring happiness to the world, that Hook’s Blue Paradise is the finest cheese I have tasted in my whole life. Perfectly tangy, creamy, pungent, pleasant – if God Himself had presided over the making of blue cheese, this is what He would have created. I ate the entire wedge in one sitting. And I didn’t feel the least bit guilty. Quite the opposite, when I awoke the next morning, I called the Great Cheesemaker himself, Tony Hook, and asked him if I could come down to his cheese factory (conveniently, this was about three blocks from my room) to shake his hand.
Here’s the place I’m talking about: http://www.hookscheese.com
I only stopped in for a little while, basically enough to time to pay my respects to the master. Turns out, Tony Hook is a really nice, really smart and incredibly hardworking guy. He’s also the kind of guy who smiles, who is humble, and who genuinely seems content with himself; this is a common trait, I believe, in people who are truly great at what they do. Tony produces cheeses that have been recognized all over as world class – you can find Hook’s cheeses at the very finest cheese shops in the America – and he makes all this cheese with his brother and his wife. That’s it. Three people. He told me he usually works twelve hour days, frequently longer days than that, because cheese-making his a passion. He said that he couldn’t imagine doing anything else with life. He said he was happy, and I could see he was telling me the truth.
Someday, I’m going to find the Three S guy and bring him to meet Tony Hook. I’d like Mr. Three S to know that hard work and discipline are self-sacrifice are indeed excellent attributes, but a life without cheese is not a life.