In the U.S., cream cheese seems to hold a place in Kiddush and celebration tradition. The following story bears witness to the Jewish love of what is otherwise a rather uneventful cheese:
Milchigs or fleishigs at a bris? All morning long, I was hoping for a milchig (dairy) spread. The bris was at 2:30 at a shul in NJ on a weekday—too late for fleishigs (meat).
Apparently I wasn’t the only one wondering the same thing! When I got there, the long table was set up with cling wrapped trays and a couple of empty heating stands. The guests were milling around as the rabbi greeted people and the mohel (also a surgeon by profession) instructed the grandfather/sandek on how to hold the baby’s legs. Other guests were either chatting or eyeing the food table—or both.
“Is it milchig or fleishig?” somebody asked. There were bagels. There was a ton of fish of various sorts, including lox, but we saw no cream cheese or anything that looked like dairy under all the plastic.
“It’s milchig!” a lady announced. “Look. That’s herring. Sour cream. That’s dairy.” There was a little bowl of something white and lumpy that I would not have noticed otherwise.
After the bris and baby naming portions were over—and the mohel had checked on a man who had fainted during the ceremony—the caterer helpers brought out trays of hot noodle kugel and macaroni and cheese. Dairy! Yay! But where was the cream cheese to go with the lox and bagels? The guests started to murmur loudly: “What? No cream cheese?” and “Do you see any cream cheese?” and “They didn’t put out cream cheese?” and “They could have at least had cream cheese!”
The new mother seemed upset: “We’re paying a lot for this event!” Apparently the caterer had left off the cream cheese. A major faux pas!
I was a little disappointed, but I eat cream cheese every day anyhow. I was very happy to have had such a delicious mac and cheese. It was decadent, with big curves of penne rigate noodles covered in cheddar and a light coating of golden bread crumbs. After being plated, each buttery, cheesy scoop oozed a frame of gold.
I, for one, was quite content with the over-the-top milchig dish that we did have. But where was the cream cheese?!
Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress