Although Plymouth, Wisconsin, with its famed cheese-making plants and trademark CheeseHead hats, is considered by many to be the cheese capital of the world, other places have attempted to lay claim to this title. Germany. The Netherlands. France. Spain. Italy. Poland. Brazil. Egypt. Argentina. Australia. I’ve heard that there are something like 900 different types of cheese in the world, and the art of cheesemaking is an ancient one–going back almost 8,000 years–or more.
I grew up in an Asian household that frowned upon my fondness for this odd food; indeed, it was perhaps one of the last cultures (no pun intended) that you’d expect to embrace the unlikely charm of cheese with a European and North American passion. The overwhelming likelihood of lactose intolerance didn’t help, either. Of course, odd is a matter of perspective; winterworm soup, bird’s nest soup, and fried fish maws were frequent oddities on the dining table.
When I was a child, I loved to believe that the moon was made of Swiss cheese. My alimentary obsession with cheese started with process cheese slices, and spread to squeezable pimento-laced cheese on my bread. Even its plebian status did not keep Mac ‘n’ Cheese from being a lunchtime favourite. Cheezies were the ultimate in forbidden treats (I gave it up, permanently, earlier this year).
Then there was my brief affair with rectangular blocks of not-so-spreadable Philly cheese for a while (which has made a recent comeback thanks to its improved smoothness and spreadability, and the addition of the flavours of smoked salmon, and garlic ‘n’ chives).
As a self-confessed cheeseologist, my experimentation continued with silver foil-wrapped Gruyère wedges, Swiss cheese, Laughing Cow Party Cubes, Baby Bels, blue cheese, mozzarella, Emmenthal, feta cheese, and best of all, Camembert cheese wheels. Cheddar has been a perennial favourite because it makes things better, and goes great with just about any food (except maybe chocolate. That would be just too odd a pairing).
If the word ‘cheese’ even figured into a food, it was worth sampling: Orville Redenbacher’s microwaveable popcorn with melted butter and drizzled with cheddar cheese. A post restaurant dinner dessert with a slice of cheesecake. Poutine smothered in cheese curds. I never met a cheese I didn’t like, but there are some that I love more than others.
After many years, mom and dad finally succumbed to the taste of cheese, with and without crackers (and I don’t think it has anything to do with the hypothesis that cheese can encourage better sleep patterns). Although I probably have to credit the sampling stations at Costco for some part of that indoctrination. Anyway. Two [more] converts to the cause.
Photo credits: PDPhotos @ PixaBay (all images).
- Cheese 101: Types, terms and tips for getting into cheese (bangordailynews.com)