Best Picture Cheeses: 'Gravity'

The lunar landscape of Suffolk Punch

In space there are few straight lines, no clear up or down, and no earth to stand on. Flat planes of existence disappear and the world asserts its full three dimensions, enveloping your body in its grasp.

Not that I’ve been to space, but this is how I perceive it to be, and how Alfonso Cuarón makes us feel while watching his miracle of a movie, Gravity.

The world of cheese, if you use your imagination, is not without parallels. One cheese that exists triumphantly in 3-D is Suffolk Punch from Parish Hill Creamery in Vermont. Most cheeses, when cut as thin as a knife will allow, become, essentially, a simple polygon—usually a triangle or a rectangle, depending on the shape of the wheel and which face you’re cutting. Suffolk Punch produces something different. Half of a matryoshka doll, maybe, or a bottom-heavy pear. It’s inspired by the Italian pasta filata (stretched-curd) cheese Caciocavallo, and both are unmistakably gourd-like when whole.

Cheesemaker Peter Dixon, a cheese wizard if ever there was one, ages these gourds in midair, hanging them two-by-two from a rope in a climate-controlled chamber (read: a cheese cave). After several months Suffolk Punch achieves a delightfully round flavor of golden butter and milk that swirls and spins across the palate. It has a spare, classic feel and is, I think, the perfect table cheese—something you always want around. As a working cheesemonger, I want it around, too. It adds interest to the case and, being a gourd, doesn’t fall in line and sit nicely on the counter. Almost as if those months hanging from a rope in a cave left it without legs to stand on.


And then we have our astronaut, tethered to mother ship after mother ship that may hold her only hope of survival. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) soon discovers there’s a weight and a weightlessness to space that must be respected. She moves around the Hubble Telescope with little effort, but soon spins out of control, helpless to stop or focus on anything in her field of vision. She learns that thruster packs and oxygen tanks have their limits, and she spends much of the rest of her time grasping at (sometimes literal) strings, trying to stave off death a moment longer and maybe, somehow, inch toward life.