What is the deal with cheese? Have people always been obsessed with calcium laden, mold? When I say “people”, I am talking about myself... I’m obsessed. Of course, my eyes opened up to cheese in Europe and they popped when I was in Australia, as I was not familiar with how pure and delicious dairy actually was, other than the rubbery, yellow brick I ate during childhood. Fortunately, the U.S. is reinventing the way we eat, cheese has become more available, and local artisans are making a real cheese comeback. Thank goodness because I am hot for cheese.
Maybe it’s the nerdy old soul in me but I love thinking about how food was made well before the industrial revolution and everything became processed. I like to picture a fragile, elderly woman standing on a front porch, churning butter, “Little House on the Prairie” style. I like to think people still preserve traditional crafts in food making. Lucky for me, they still do! When I found this out, my cheesy love story began...
About 10 years ago (give or take) as I was driving up to Madison, Wisconsin, I was listening to public radio. I was all by my lonesome when suddenly NPR had the best, most informative, magical program about cheese making. The ether filled my ears and thoughts of cheese. I was hooked, I listed to cheese makers being interviewed the entire rest of the drive up. The artisans talked about their cheese, farms, production, marketing, etc. My weekend could not have gotten any better but it did- I unexpectedly met Felix (one of the cheese makers interviewed) the day after the broadcast, at the Farmer's Market. It was like meeting a global celebrity; it was like meeting Brad Pitt, but better! A real, live, cheese maker! From public radio! Standing in front of me! In person! I was star struck. A man making his own cheese? Oh my goodness! Talk about a delicious fantasy. There are plenty more reasons why cheese rocks my world (other than a fresh curd farmer named Felix).
I find it so incredibly sexy, making something from scratch and from the heart. It gets me every time. (Sigh)
Whether it is processed or artisanal, hard or soft, fresh or aged- all cheese has a purpose I suggest letting it into yours. It can open up taste profiles, pairings, and take your culinary creativity to an entirely new level. Cheese will expand the complexity of flavors in the world of culinary. What make cheeses unique are different brining methods, milk used, and storage practices. Adding new types of cheese to a recipe is an easy way to create new dishes. Be bold. Be daring. Get out there and try more cheese. There are enough varietals to send you over the moon. (Side note- The moon is NOT made out of real cheese). Discovering artisan cheeses and stepping out of the box o' cheddar will up your social status to a respected and elite food source. Well, maybe not, but I think it’s impressive. That says something... I mean why more people don’t think of cheese as pure pleasure, beats me. Cheese tasting on a date is as good as foreplay before sex. I believe Felix would agree.
Next time you want a date night idea, go taste some cheese. If you do not like cheese or can’t eat it, well, you can compare how the different cheeses and the way they smell. Like, what cheese smells the worst? Doesn’t that sound like fun?! If a bad smelling cheese is not a turn on, then I don’t know what is...
Check out your local farmer’s market, Whole Foods or any gourmet grocer to find some cool, new cheese. Or Google it to get some ideas. Here are a few around Chicago.