The Big Cheese
I’m a “Foody” … #nomnomnom. I love to eat, love to cook, have a serious relationship with wine. Years ago, I managed a store in Head House Square called The Big Cheese. Much to my now wife’s amusement that’s how I would answer the phone = “Hello, The Big Cheese”. Many of my employees through the years would avow that I still wear that moniker.
Cheese predates written history and is documented to have existed in Europe, Asia, and Africa 5500 years ago, there are references in Homer’s Odyssey. Back in the BC days milk was transported in animal bladders and would curdle forming the curds and whey we know as cheese.
One of the epicurean world’s oldest and most varied treasures is cheese. I’m always dismayed when someone will tell me “I don’t like cheese”. There are so many different flavors, textures, colors, smells and preparations it seems impossible, if only you’d try.
Cheese comes from many mammals, commonly cows, goats and sheep are easy to find here in the US but cheese has been made from the milk of moose, yaks, camels, buffalo, horse, elk and reindeer. There are more than 2000 documented varieties of cheese that are categorized by aging, texture, method of making, origin, fat content and how it is ripened. Cheddar cheese is crumbly because it is chopped (cheddared) while processing. Blue Cheese has holes poked into it to allow the mold to grow. Swiss cheese has a bacterium that causes bubbles to form.
The Largest cheese is more than 57,000 pounds. The oldest, 400 years old. The US is the largest manufacturer of cheese while the Greeks consume the most. The most expensive cheese, Pule, from Serbia is more than $600 per pound.
The Simpler Things in Life
Cheese like wine, has its own descriptive adjectives.
- Textures: brittle buttery chalky chewy close compact creamy crumbly crystalline dense dry elastic firm flaky fluffy grainy oily open runny semi firm smooth soft soft-ripened spreadable springy sticky stringy supple
- Colors: blue blue-grey brown brownish yellow cream golden orange golden yellow green ivory orange pale yellow pink and white red straw white yellow
- Type: fresh soft fresh firm soft semi-soft semi-hard hard semi-firm
- Aroma and Flavor: Sharp, Smoky, Fruity, Nutty, Gamy, Mushroomy, Straw, Caramel, Beefy, Sweet, Citrus, Lemon, Earthy, Barnyard, Buttery, Tangy, Mild, Grassy, Herbaceous
Hard cheeses are often nutty and sharp, particularly if they are aged. Try a real Italian Provolone (not the deli stuff) or a Reggiano Parmesan (Not the pizza shop). From there, maybe a nice 3-10 year old aged Gouda, Sheep’s Milk Manchego from Spain has delicious nutty flavors with a crumbly texture and buttery sensation in the mouth.
Like Brie (a ‘double cream’)? Maybe try its cousin Camembert. From there – work your way slowly towards a creamy blue Roquefort, which might lead you to a stinky Limburger.
Get together with a knowledgeable Turophile or Affineur, bring along a nice crusty bread or bottle of good wine and tour the world. MY door is open if you’re game.