I don’t just love cheese; I adore it. So much so that every day, for me, is “cheese lover’s day.” Cheese is one of the most fascinating foods around, from its myriad incarnations and international versatility to its funky history. I have compiled a list of questions and answers on my true love and appreciation for cheese. Consider this a Valentine to Cheese—How do I love cheese? Let me count the ways.
Why not cheese? I truly don’t understand this question. It’s like asking a fine pastry chef, “Why éclairs?” Cheese is delicious. It’s beautiful. It’s protein- and calcium-packed. It comes in many shapes, colors, milks, flavors, and styles. It is versatile enough for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. It has a rich history and regional terroir. With its many personalities, cheese is funny and quirky by nature. It is alive. It speaks if you listen closely. Oh, and it can melt! Cheese is the ultimate toy and storyteller.
How did you get into cheese?
I loved cheese from an early age, and dairy products from birth. As a baby, I drank a remarkable one quart of milk a day. I loved milk, and when I got old enough to appreciate cheese, I did. My earliest cheese memory is eating pimento cheese sandwiches in pre-school. By the time I was eight, I was eating chunks of Longhorn Colby like a lollipop. I truly came into cheese when my high school French teacher introduced the class to Brie and chèvre at a class party. Once I traveled to Europe in high school, I discovered even more cheese in France and Italy, where I was studying language. My passion for cheese only grew as my knowledge deepened.
What’s your favorite cheese?
My favorite cheese is usually the one I have eaten most recently! The cheese type I eat the most often is Cheddar. However, my go-to favorite cheese, my standard answer is my first love, Crottin de Chavignol, a goat nugget from France.
How do you eat so much cheese and stay thin?
Cheese is part of my healthy diet—one which keeps my weight in check. I eat cheese with great frequency on a daily basis, but not in great quantities.
I have been overweight and I even had high cholesterol in my early 20’s, but it was not the cheese’s fault; I was eating too much high carb/low fiber food, namely pastries. When I switched back to cheese as my #1 filler-up source, and replaced the sweets with fruits, I lost the weight and the cholesterol issues. I also work out a lot as cheese provides me with sustaining, long-lasting energy vs. the crash and burn of sugar.
Do you make your own cheese?
Yes and no. I have made fresh (unaged) cheeses at home before, including ricotta, mascarpone, and cream cheese. My main source of cheese, however, is store-bought. Going through the cheesemaking deepened my understanding of my favorite food.
Is there any cheese you don’t like? Do you eat Velveeta?
Yes, there are three cheeses I don’t like, but they are not the usual suspects. (Write me privately and I will name them. They are not inherently bad cheeses—just not my cup of “cheese.”) One, I will name, however. It is a horrible process cheese from the 99 Cent Store in L.A. This was the worst cheese in the world. It wasn’t even cheese. It was just plastic and rubber. It made American slices look like an aged clothbound cheddar! The 99 cent cheese was so bad, I threw it away and its name has become a repressed memory. What was I thinking?
On the other hand, I believe that (almost) every cheese has its purpose and should be appreciated per its unique reason to live. Velveeta, for example, is far from artisanal, but no one can deny that it is a great melter and part of culinary Americana. Who hasn’t enjoyed the simple pleasure of dumping a can of Rotel into a bowl of Velveeta cubes, microwaving it, and kicking back in front of the TV with some tortilla chips?
So Cheese On! Make every day Cheese Day!
Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress