Blessed Are the Cheesemakers
By Sarah-Kate Lynch
Published by Warner Books
June 2003; 0446693014; 256 pages

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Blessed are the Cheesemaker by Sarah Kate LynchCHAPTER ONE

"You can't hurry cheese. It happens in its own time and if that bothers you, you can just feck off."
Joseph Feehan, from The Cheese Diaries, Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE) Radio Archives

The Princess Grace Memorial Blue sat on the table in front of Abbey, screaming to be eaten. Abbey, as always, was smiling her dreamy smile, her eyes half closed and her head slightly thrown back, as though she were preparing to blow out a candle and make a wish. Well, it was her twenty-ninth birthday, after all, and there would have been candles, too, had not the Princess Grace been a particularly fussy cheese, inclined to expel a pungent foul-smelling aroma if fiddled with in any fashion. Actually, this pernicketiness was what made her so special. She was made with fresh Coolarney milk hand-expressed at daybreak every April 19 and she was treated like royalty from the first tweak of the first teat to the last crumb on the last tongue. She insisted on it. She was that sort of a cheese.

Her creators, Joseph Corrigan and Joseph Feehan, better known as Corrie and Fee, could not take their eyes off her. They'd been making the Memorial Blues just one day a year ever since Grace Kelly (with whom they were both in love at the time) broke their hearts by marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco on April 19 in 1956. The resulting cheeses were wildly sought after and cherished throughout the world, but nowhere as much as at home.

"She's a fine feckin' thing," Fee said, licking his lips in a mildly lascivious manner, his cheeks rosy with anticipation as his fat round bottom bounced in its seat.

"She's all right," agreed Corrie, raising his eyebrows in a show of appreciation. Abbey looked on, smiling. Princess Grace stood taller than the average Coolarney Blue. Her flesh was palest blond, the exact shade of her namesake's hair in her heyday, and her veins were a perfect mixture of sky blue and sea green, silvery in some lights, black in others, depending on her mood.

 

Her fans had been sitting in the smoking room for nearly two hours, just watching and waiting for her to reach the perfect temperature. The room was their favorite and, unlike almost every other in the rambling, gracious home, was out of bounds to the many Coolarney House comers and goers. It needed little sun, which was just as well because little sun was what it got. Two whole walls were devoted to shelves, overflowing with magazines and books, some of them over one hundred years old. The other walls were painted a rich dark green and the woodwork, too, was varnished extra dark, giving a somber, hunting lodge sort of appeal.

Corrie was in his brown leather La-Z-Boy rocker recliner, Fee in his overstuffed patched brocade armchair.

Between them, on a little round table with unmistakable altar overtones, as befitted this and every cheese-eating occasion, sat the glorious Grace and, of course, Abbey. At seventy-three Corrie bore the same uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Stewart that he had as a younger man (although the girls commented on this less now that Jimmy was mostly a memory, long since replaced by Mels and Harrisons and Brads). His eyes were sparkling blue, his gray hair thick and slicked back with some ancient odor-free hair cream. He'd been six feet two once upon a time, but admitted now to a stoop that he blamed on the years spent bending over the cheese vat, which had shortened him by a couple of inches. Always impeccably dressed, he was wearing a pale blue woolen sweater over a crisp white cotton shirt and a dark brown pair of '50s-style high-waisted trousers.

Fee, on the other hand, was wearing a desperate pair of pond-scum green corduroy pants, belted around his not insubstantial middle with an old piece of twine. His checked brown shirt and gray cardigan matched only in the number of holes that happened in the same spot, giving the impression that at some stage, many years earlier, he had perhaps been poked all over with a giant sharpened pencil.

Fee was as short and stout as Corrie was tall and lean, and should they be standing close together, as they often were, from a distance they looked for all the world like the letters d or b-depending on which side Fee was standing. "Twenty-nine," Fee said, shaking his head in Abbey's direction, his voice tinged with a peculiar sort of amazement. "You wouldn't credit it."

Corrie nodded in agreement, and looked from Abbey to the Princess and back again. God knew he loved his cheeses, but what he felt for Abbey at that precise moment, or any moment she occupied his thoughts, no dairy product of any kind, even an impeccably flawless gem like Princess Grace, could ever hope to match. Yet still he felt sad. He poked at the fire's glowing embers and concentrated on the loud tick-tocking of his grandfather's clock as they waited in companionable silence. "It's time, Joseph," Fee said finally, when he knew that it was, and he sat forward in his chair and reached for his cheese knife.

"For Grace?" Corrie asked, surprised. He'd have thought it another while away yet, but Fee was the expert, there'd be no argument there.

"For a lot of things," Fee said cryptically, sucking a wedge of the Princess off the blade of his bone-handled knife and forcing it up against the roof of his mouth. He pushed his tongue against it, soaking up its perfect texture and exquisite flavor.

"Right so," said Corrie, gently moving in to slice a chunk out of Grace with his own stainless-steel knife. He'd known Joseph Feehan for seventy-three years and for the first sixty-five had tried to make sense of what he said. More recently he had given up, realizing that it made no difference to the outcome and anyway it was part of Fee's charm. And Fee needed all the charm he could get. Corrie raised his knife, sporting its perfectly balanced creamy blue wedge, in the direction of Abbey and toasted her.

"Happy birthday, Abbey," he said. "I hope you're enjoying it and please God you'll be with us for the next one." Abbey kept smiling her dreamy smile, eyes half closed, head slightly thrown back.

Corrie tucked his melancholy away and surrendered his senses to the touch and taste of Princess Grace. How she lingered on his lips! How she sang to his saliva! How she tap-danced on his taste buds! When the last tingle of the first taste had melted away to nothing, Corrie turned to his granddaughter, reached across the table and picked her up, planting a kiss on her smile. He looked at the photo awhile, tracing with his smooth cheesemaker's finger the lip-shaped smudge his kiss had left on the glass in the frame, then he sighed and put Abbey back on the table. It's time all right, Fee thought quietly to himself as he reached for another wedge.

Copyright 2003 Sarah-Kate Lynch
Reprinted with permission.
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Synopsis

Joseph Corrigan and Joseph Feehan, better known as Corrie and Fee, make the finest Coolarney Blue cheese in the entire civilized world. But Corrie still pines for his long-lost granddaughter, whisked away from her Ireland home as a child by her gallivanting mother. At this very moment, in a primitive hut on a remote South Seas island, his twenty-nine-year-old granddaughter Abbey is getting ready to leave her irrigation-obsessed husband after discovering that he has gone biblical with several of the natives.

A continent away, Kit Stephens is struggling with the loss of his wife and his career as a high-flying Wall Street broker. What this lonely, hungover, and burned-out New Yorker needs is a miracle-fast. Where better to find one than in a distant corner of Ireland, on a dairy farm run by the unlikeliest pair ever to preside over a vat of unpasteurized curd?

As Abbey and Kit converge on Coolarney House in County Cork, they discover a marvelous kingdom where something wonderful is always fermenting…where pregnant, vegetarian dairymaids milk cows to "The Sound of Music"…and where a cat named Jesus realizes she just isn't cut out for motherhood. While Corrie and Fee zealously guard the secret of the renowned Coolarney Blue and shelter an odd collection of whisky-soaked men and brokenhearted women, a tantalizing mystery surfaces from the aromatic depths of the factory. Soon Abbey and Kit will find out whether they have what it takes to become master cheesemakers. And something more. For in this magical place where wounds miraculously heal, falling in love is what makes us come truly alive.

A book to delight your heart, taste buds, and funny bone, Blessed are the Cheesemakers is an irresistible tale about taking life's spilled milk and turning it into the best cheese in the world.

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Author

Sarah-Kate LynchSara-Kate Lynch had been a journalist for nearly 20 years working for radio stations and magazines in New Zealand, Sydney and London. Before she quit to write fiction she was the editor for New Zealand Woman's Weekly magazine and wrote a popular column which she published selected columns from in her book The Modern Girl's Guide to Life.

She lives in Queenstown which is a small lakeside town in the mountains of New Zealand's South Island. Her next novel will be about sourdough bread.

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