Carli's Bee Cheese

When I was in second grade, my father remarried. I couldn’t have had any idea then, when I first met Carli, how much of an impact she’d have on my life. After an initial period of being quite uncomfortable and a bit intimidated by someone with such an amazing lifeforce… someone so different than anyone else in my life… she became someone that I would grow to learn from, rely on, and absolutely cherish. Her smile, her stories, her love of food, all shaped a great deal of who I am now. Her absolute insistence of being real and honest with ourselves about who we are, where we came from and where we are going.

I’ve thought a lot about Carli this week, as April 15th was her birthday, right in between my own birthday and my daughter’s. She died, about 10 years ago, from cancer that we had once thought was cured, and then came back with a vengeance. She was still in her 50s. I miss her dearly.

Just recently, I stumbled upon an old treasure… a cookbook that she and my father made for all of us kids of her recipes back in 1989. There are well over a hundred recipes, all formatted and annotated and bound up in a red binder. Notes stuffed into the binder pockets with late additions (as well as some of my own). The book had been missing for years, tucked away in some box during one of my moves years ago. I am thrilled to have rediscovered it, and I’ve spent hours now leafing through the old stained pages, smiling at recipes like “Kitchen Cacciatore” and “Carli Cake”. Recipes that I didn’t even remember that I had forgotten suddenly appear and bring back images of great times. And, tucked in are dozens of recipes that I don’t even recall, but am now anxious to try. Of all the cookbooks on my shelves (including some beautiful new ones recently procured), this family cookbook is the one I’m sure to be cooking from over the next few weeks. The recipes aren’t complicated, but are, like Carli, honest and real. Food that you come home to after a long day. Food that is healthy and comforting. In Carli’s words, food that is “very unusual, very traditional, very cheap or very easy.” Food that is about nostalgia and enjoyment, love and family.

With a book like this, I hardly know where to begin. So, I’ll start at the very beginning, with a simple appetizer: Bee Cheese. I don’t know why it’s called Bee Cheese. Most likely, the recipe came from someone called Bee. Maybe it’s that there is so much stored energy (ie, fat) in the cheese and butter, it will get you buzzing around like a bee. Whatever the reason, I’m sure it was a favorite because cocktail hour was always big in my house growing up. As kids (my two brothers, my sister and I) would start clamoring about being hungry and what’s for dinner, Carli always managed to pull out some sort of cheese or fruit or bread or crackers to snack on while dinner was being made, and while she and my dad would engage us kids in deep conversations about poets or politics or just even what happened in our day. We’d snack, they’d have some wine, and the dinner time production would begin.

Bee Cheese
Note: You’ll need to start a few days before you need this crocked cheese… and you’ll need a cheese crock or jar. Also, the original recipe didn’t call for the parsley, but I know that Carli always added herbs to everything… she’d definitely approve of the addition.

10 oz sharp cheddar cheese
6 oz softened butter
2 T sherry
1 T horseradish
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced.
2 T chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (optional)

Grate the cheese. Then, mix all the ingredients together and pack tightly into a crock or jar. Refrigerate for at least 2 days before serving. Keeps for about 10 days in the refrigerator.

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  • kim

    This looks heavenly!
    I find food that is accompanied by special memories always tastes better!

    I have to try it this weekend. Thanks for the food inspiration!

  • Tanna

    Oh, what an amazing treasure you have in that notebook cookbook.
    This looks like a lovely recipe and will fit perfectly into our wine ritual much as you describe from your childhood. I look forward to many more from the book!
    Happiness in a jar of cheese.

  • Eva

    This is down-to-earth food at its best! Unfortunately, I can’t inherit such a wonderful cookbook – my family (including myself) is more of the paper scraps collecting kind…

  • jules

    lucky you having such inspiration.. I love recipes that have names that go beyond just a description… bee cheese sounds very inviting

  • Ellie

    What a beautiful post – thank you for sharing the memory of Carli with us :) The cheese sounds like it’d be great to bring to a party, though you’d just need to make sure you made enough for all the guests!

  • bea at La tartine gourmande

    What a touching post L. And you are indeed lucky to have found such a book. A real treasure of emotions and memories. This cheese spread is a great start.

  • tara

    My goodness. What a lovely, lovely testament to someone who meant so much to you. Completely touching and eloquent, in every way. It is evident that Carli was a special person.

    On a wholly superficial note, the cheese looks so very tasty – something I will surely be trying.

  • Mercedes

    This reminds me of fromage fort, what a lovely tribute, and aren’t you lucky to have that cookbook.

  • iamchanelle

    what a treasure! i, too have a cookbook like that from my grandma, who passed away from cancer two years ago. thank you so much for sharing such a personal gem – Carli must have been a very, very special person, and you have honoured her well here. :)

  • s’kat

    What a wonderful find! She sounds like a real individual.

  • peabody

    I love, love, love this post. You are so lucky to have a cookbook like that. I keep trying to get my mom to make one. I want to make one but we aren’t having kid…I still might pass it on to my niece’s and nephews.

  • Garrett

    Sounds like a shibby delish spread!

  • Tea

    What a lovely post about one who meant so much to you. You must have been delighted to come across the cookbook again; what a treasure she left you with, in more ways than one.

    My mother’s birthday is April 15th as well.

  • Anita

    Somehow I knew to put off reading this post for a couple of days, which is unusual, as I usually jump to read your posts. I must have known it would tug at my heartstrings…

    I’m so glad you’ve found Carli’s cookbook again, in time for her birthday. And, that spread sounds (and looks) delicious.

  • Nadia

    I think this is called ‘kismet’ or ‘serendipity’ or something…
    April 13 was the birthday of a dear friend who inspired me in living and cooking in a similar way to how you were inspired by your dear Carli. “My Carli” died 11 years ago only 2 days before her 38th birthday so remembering her death is always tempered by celebrating whatever birthday she would have had, had she still been alive. I think of her every April but this year in particular I have been struck by stronger memories of her, how she lived and loved, how she loved to cook and feed her many friends. She lived her life BIG-ly – you will probably understand what I mean. I miss her a lot.
    Reading your beautiful post brought a smile to my face and a clutch to my heart. I’m glad you had a Carli in your life and I’m sure glad I had one in mine.
    Okay – spooky coincidence-y thing now – they almost shared a birthday, died a year apart, loved to cook and “My Carli’s” last name was Carlsen. [Cue “Twilight Zone” music]
    I only found your blog a few days ago. Now I know why.

  • joy

    I was touched by your story. My Mom was a great cook too but unfortunately she didn’t have any personal cookbook. I got one handwritten recipe that she mailed to my sis in the U.S. This one is among my treasures.

  • Holly

    What a really meaningful and personal gift of your father and Carli. I am sure she knows that you cherish her. What a fine post.
    I also admire your website design and photography. The design is really clean, easy to navigate, and
    is one I have followed for several months and wish I could emmulate. Thank you.

  • Anne, the sister

    Lara, Thanks for the beautiful memory of Mom. The bee cheese recipe is one that I have never tried. But when I cook, which is rare, I almost always cook from Mom’s cookbook. I make Carli cakes for Rick’s birthday and castle cakes for the boys. I miss her every day. Maybe the fact that I hate to cook comes from some attempt to rebel against Mom, the ultimate cook. In any case, I am forever grateful to her for putting the cookbook together so that I can share some of my mother with the grandsons she never met but would have loved dearly (and they her).
    Love to you,

  • Bill


    My sister Carli was the most important person in my young life, and this April 17th, when I turned 54, I once again celebrated with the memory of Carli who always celebrated our birthdays together. Reading this made me realize how many other lives Carli touched and how I wasn’t the only child she loved. Thank you for keeping her alive for me and for loving her. You probably got to spend more time with her and learn more from her than I did. I’ll try to make some of these recipies myself.

  • joey

    What a beautiful post! And what a treasure this is…that is the best sort of cookbook to have, filled with tradition and memory :)

  • L

    Thanks all for your wonderful thoughts! I’m sorry I haven’t responded to you each individually, but I definitely apprecaite all your comments and am so happy you’ve enjoyed the post. There will be more to come from “the family book” in the near future!


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  • Family Cookbook

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story about your family. A family cookbook is truly a wonderful way to capture and preserve the memories of our loved ones.

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  • Nurit – 1 family. friendly. food.

    I LOVE this post, Lara.
    And, it’s funny that I read it now… I’ve been thinking about writing a cookbook for my kids, something to give to them when they grow up, but with some stories to remind them of the family times and the food they had as children. I only made a list of the recipes so far. More than 50 in it–I stopped counting, just adding more as my memory flickers…
    And your Bee cheese reminded me of a cheese spread a mother of a friend used to bring to the beach when I joined them. It was very garlicky! And I loved it! Don’t think it had sophisticated ingredients like sherry or horseradish in it, but Carli’s recipe is a good point to start and explore and try to recapture that spread from my childhood.
    Ah… food and memories–I love that combination.