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 an ode 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 Cheddar 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 travelled 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 is goat cheese. Fresh goat cheese logs are very common now on the kosher market, and Makabi is importing a bloomy-rinded goat log from France called Fromage de Chèvre.
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.
I also rarely eat meat; the waiting time after meat conflicts my need for cheese every two hours! Eating meat is a six-hour sacrifice for me and personally not worth it.
Is there any cheese you don’t like? Do you eat process cheeses?
Yes, there are a few cheeses I don’t like, but they are not the usual suspects. They are not inherently bad cheeses—just not my cup of “cheese.” On the other hand, I believe that (almost) every cheese has its purpose and should be appreciated per its unique reason to live. Process cheese, 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 salsa into a bowl of process cheese cubes, microwaving it, and kicking back in front of the TV with some tortilla chips?
What about kosher cheese?
What about it? Kosher cheese is, fundamentally, no different in production from other cheeses, except that it must be made from the milk of a kosher animal (cow, sheep, goat, or any ruminant animal with cloven hooves that chews its cud). The production must be overseen by a rabbi or mashgiach food inspector. No one magically “blesses” the cheese, but rather, the production area must not include any traces of non-kosher products. For example, a kosher cheese may not be made on equipment where non-kosher cheese has been made, such as cheeses made with (non-kosher, or sometimes even kosher) animal rennet or any additives such as pork (prosciutto mozzarella roles, for example), cheeses soaked in non-kosher wine, or cheeses from a non-kosher animal such as a camel or horse. Yak cheese is acceptable, though! If it’s made all kosher
Is non-kosher cheese better than kosher cheese?
Fundamentally, no. The only issue I see with kosher cheese is that most is industrial and does not represent enough countries—but that is changing—and you can help change it!
Although my personal mihag allows for cheese with animal rennet, I fully support the kosher industry, especially where cheese is concerned. I firmly believe that if more people bought kosher cheese on a regular basis, the industry would see more mainstream cheeses with hashgacha, and the variety would increase as well. Once kosher consumers explore cheeses outside of mild Cheddar, process cheeses, and “pizza” cheese, new industrial styles from other countries will appear, as has happened with the Makabi French line and The Cheese Guy’s international selections. Once strictly kosher consumers have experienced the varieties of cheeses possible, the road will be paved for even more truly “artisanal” and “farmhouse” cheeses on the market.
Thus, I promote the kosher cheese industry with great passion and hope.
Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress