A very cheesy wedding ritual
April 27th, 2011
03:15 PM ET
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Four and a half years ago, my husband Douglas and I plighted our troth with infinitely less fanfare, but arguably as much ardor as the couple slated to take the royal plunge on Friday.

Little of our ceremony was traditional. I wore 64 yards of red tulle with black flames climbing up it and our Irish Wolfhound escorted me down the aisle. My groom had drawn heavily upon his theater tech and direction background to light, score and choreograph the proceedings - not to mention spending well over a decade converting the deconsecrated Episcopal church itself into our home.

The ceremony was highly reflective of who we are as individuals and as a united force - all the way down to the readings. One dear friend selected a Frank O'Hara poem, my father gave a speech on the importance of ethics in a marriage, a friend and sister shared passages from Jane Eyre and then one of the finest food writers in the country instructed us eat cheese together.

Our pal Pete and his wife Susan - no slouch in the literary department herself - deeply grasp and embody the importance of meal sharing in a marriage. At times, it's an affirmation of life's bounty and a conduit to other sensual celebration. At others, it's simply time spent in the same place, free of distraction (house rule: cellphones off). In either case, we knew these two hold the act of dining together in high esteem, so we asked them to craft a ritual and include a close friend, at the ready with a tray of aged Gouda and rye whiskey. Here's what they served up.

The Ritual of Rye and Cheese by Pete Wells and Susan Choi

Kat and Douglas have asked us to help them celebrate their union with the ritual of cheese and rye whiskey. We thought we could explain the significance of these two items with a brief history of the human race.

10,000 years ago, in the Fertile Crescent around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the Mesopotamians discovered beer. This exciting new way to drink was found because the Mesopotamians had formed the world's first agrarian society. Instead of scrounging around for berries and slow-moving animals for dinner, these ancient people tended livestock and grew their own grain.

It's likely that some of their stored grain got wet and began to ferment on its own. Some hardy soul drank the frothy brew: beer. And so it happened that the invention of alcoholic beverages was one of the first benefits of leaving behind a nomadic life of aimless wandering to settle down in one place.

It wasn't until much later – about 1,000 years ago – that we made the next huge leap forward in bibulous culture, when the Arabs invented
distillation. Now fermented grain (like rye) could be boiled and recondensed, making a new substance that was stronger, more pure, and capable of enduring for years – and sometimes even of improving with age.

Fermentation is also one of the secrets of cheese making, a way to keep milk from spoiling by turning it into something stronger, richer, and capable of improving with age.

Taking simple ingredients like grain of rye or warm cow's milk and transforming them into something completely new was, in a sense, the beginning of cuisine. Humans were no longer creatures who ate to stay alive. Now we ate for pleasure.

And this meant that we no longer tore at joints of meat in jealous solitude. It was the beginning of enjoying our food together, sitting down to celebrate the enormous fortune of having something delicious to share with another person.

Kat and Douglas, as the ancient Mesopotamians once shared fermented grain from a common cup at their highest celebrations, we ask you to drink this rye whiskey and eat this aged gouda in honor of your momentous decision to settle down and tend your livestock and your crops together.

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Filed under: Beer • Culture • Dating • Events • Rituals • Royal Wedding • Sip • Spirits • Weddings

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. backlink

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    April 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  2. Evil Grin

    I totally missed this before, but somehow, your house really fits you, Kat. What we know of you, of course.

    I have to admit that I find weddings completely boring, and I hate being forced to go unless they are extremely close friends. However, yours sounds like it must have been interesting. And probably had excellent food.

    May 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  3. Mildred

    That is a wonderful story! My fiance and I cook a lot together (when he's home) and food will be a major part of our wedding and ceremony.

    April 28, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  4. PertyMundane

    After reading about the thought that went into this marriage, mine was incredibly mundane in comparisson. 14 years ago, I told my hubby-to-be that he was going to marry me now! or I was leaving.

    Three days later, we were married. The fact that he managed to not only arrange a pretty amazing wedding, and get all of his family and mine in from around the country on such short notice, still amazes me.

    As for food, my dad treated us to lunch after the ceremony. Simple, informal, and still a great memory.

    April 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  5. fob

    I love the intimate info in this piece Kat. I have became much more interested in food and cooking since I got married. So, that wasn't a big part of our reception. My favorite meal now (and it has been for the last few years) is our homemade pizza on Friday nights. It's the one meal my husband cooks and he just does a darn good job. I look forward to it every week.

    April 27, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • fob


      One thing we did do, that we had been planning ahead on, was go out to breakfast to our favorite local diner. We wanted to start the day out together, doing one of our favorite Saturday morning rituals. It was great. My brother in law and nephew ended up showing up at the same diner and the brother in law treated us. :)

      April 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  6. Trix

    We got married in a New Orleans voodoo temple and didn't invite anyone – it was just us, and it was amazing. The priestess told us to put together a basket for the temple gods, and, knowing nothing about what may or may not please a temple god, we went with good luck foods. Long noodles, apples, oranges – and of course red velvet cake from Rouse's in the French Quarter. We got to eat the cake after the ceremony – it was (and remains) the best cake I have ever tasted!

    April 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      That sounds pretty incredible and I love the notion of lucky foods. And darn it – now I want some red velvet cake.

      April 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  7. Truth, Temporary Bachelor

    I love the story. I think that your ceremony is as creative as you appear to be Kat...May you and hubby share many, many happy years together.

    As to food at our wedding, it was served in HUGE quantities, but in her country, the bride and groom are expected to do the rounds to all of the tables, and do not get to eat. Our first meal as married folk was some com bo served in disposable bowls purchased from a street vendor and eaten in our hotel room. And fwiw, I think it one of the most memorable meals I've ever had...:)

    April 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  8. Lifelong Vegetarian

    For my second marriage (his first), and given that we married less than 2 months after we first met online, we had a potluck. We brought the punch and mushroom lasagne, and a lot of other people brought favorite dishes. We had food piled up everywhere, it seemed. Wonderful family and friends feast. :) And we made the minister cry. *grin*

    April 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  9. JBJingles

    It's so nice how you brought your love of food, and your love of the hubby to the ceremony! We had a quiet wedding, nice dinner after, then a reception when we got home. Food was a big part of it as we were married on Valentine's Day, so I made all kinds of different foods with a heart theme. Very fun!

    April 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  10. Chez Us

    Not only do I love the idea of creamy, and sexy cheese as being part of the wedding; but, converting an old church. LOVE IT!

    April 27, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
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