This is the first time I have ever expressed admiration on the internet for a commercial enterprise. However, because of a very pleasant experience with Amazon, I thought I would let readers be aware of what transpired.
Approximately one week ago, I ordered a “wheel” (the entire form) of a cheese called: Cabrales, from Amazon. It was shipped from Chef’s Warehouse, since Amazon was simply the agent, or go-between, for the seller and buyer.
Cabrales, is probably one of the world’s best blue cheeses. It is made in a small pueblecito in the mountains of Asturias, in north-western Spain. It is so good and so famous, that the Spanish Government has given it the famous “D.O.” or Denominacion de Origen (Protegida), which signifies no one can use the name Cabrales except the cheese makers of this little town.
Cabrales cheese is made from the milk of cows, sheep and goats. Obviously, the poor mountain people of Cabrales used any milk they could get when they first made their cheeses several centuries ago.
After making the cheese, the people of Cabrales covered the cheese in oak leaves and placed the cheeses in caves to age. This reflects the poverty of these people centuries ago when paper was unavailable to cover the cheese. Leaves were abundant and leaves were used in order to protect the cheese from insects and small animals.
As the cheese aged, the penicillin fungus invaded the cheese and turn the milk blue. The same process occurs with Gorgonzola and Roquefort, the blue cheeses of Italy and France. Penicillin is a fungus found in damp cool areas throughout the planet. As we know, this fungus attacks the bacteria that are also prevalent in damp cool areas. The fungus protects the cheese from bacteria, so that it can eat the cheese alone! We can see here, the constant battle of living beings striving to survive on the Planet Earth.
After the fungus has invaded the cheese and the cheese turns blue, the people of Cabrales remove the cheese from the caves in order to use it as a form of food. With the cheese, bread was eaten, giving the inhabitants of Cabrales carbohydrates, fats and proteins — all the nutrients necessary for survival.
When my wheel of Cabrales arrived at my house, I felt like one of the hungry residents of the town of Cabrales, eager to have some cheese, with my loaf of fresh French bread. I thought that mixing French bread with Spanish cheese and drinking Italian wine to wash it all down was an excellent way of surviving.
I looked at the wheel of cheese after I had taken it out of an enormous box, filled with plastic “popcorn” and plastic bags of ice.
The label was unique! QUESO CABRALES. It had red, white and green stripes. It had a picture of an oak leaf, with the words: “Denominacion de Origen Protegida” CABRALES directly in the center of the wrapping. Around the edges were the letters: D.O.P. CABRALES.
In addition it had the words: ELABORACION ARTESANAL CON LECHE DE VACA, OVEJA Y CABRA Which means: Artisan Elaboration (work) with milk from the Cow, the Sheep and the Goat. (There were even some words giving the name and telephone number of the Dairy.)
The weight of the cheese was to be determined at the point of sale. I was told that the minimum fat content was 45%. All this information made me feel like a starving savage!
I took off the wrapping and stared at the cheese. It was wrapped in transparent plastic. I thought to myself, in the olden days, it would probably have a few maggots crawling around the surface. Maggots and cheese have a tendency to live together. In Sardinia, we have a cheese which is covered with maggots and it is considered one of the greatest delicacies known to mankind! (Of course, if you are not a Sardinian, you might have another opinion.)
After being repulsed by the clear plastic wrapping, I decided to cut right through the wrapping and taste the cheese. I started to cut..
The cheese was hard as a rock! I tapped the cheese with my knuckles. Stone! “What the Hell?” I knew this cheese intimately. It should feel almost as soft as … It should feel somewhat soft.
Something was wrong. I continued cutting. I removed a triangular wedge. It was hard and totally blue. That meant the penicillin fungus had had sufficient time to invade the entire cheese. Normally, the invasion started at the center and spread towards the periphery, leaving a two or three centimeter white edge. This cheese had been in storage too long. The fungus had invaded the entire cheese and the water had evaporated, leaving a blue hard rock.
What to do? I am sick and tired of Customer Service people saying, after a long wait and many transfers from department to department, “I’m sorry, but …” Nonetheless, because I was so hungry and so angry, thinking of some good friends who would have loved that cheese, that I decided to call Amazon. After all, they had been the agent, that provided the link to Chef’s Warehouse.
I went to their website and finally ended up in a section for people who were dissatisfied. It clearly said: Call Me. Call this number Now! I called and instantly, after hanging up, my phone rang! “Wow!”
The machine voice said: Thanks for calling Customer Service. We are transferring you to an agent. “A Human Being!” I said to myself, incredulously.
A Human Being, with a foreign accent, actually got on the line! I identified myself and told my sad story. I listened to the word “Sorry!” several times and then I was told I would have to call the Shipper. I was given the Telephone Number and the Order Number. Naturally, I expected to hear “I’m sorry, BUT …” To my shock, I heard a nice young female’s voice telling me that I would be sent a new wheel of cheese within two days! Total disbelief!
I called Amazon back. “What if they don’t ship? Tell us! We will put in a claim. But, every penny you spent will be refunded to your account immediately!”
Miracles, evidently, still happen!