I’m a bit of a cheese freak. Now, as a good Southern girl, I was pretty limited in my cheese tastes growing up: American, Swiss, Cheddar, Mozzarella, pre-grated Parmesan, and Colby. Maybe some brie on occasion, but that big display of cheese at the fancy grocery store never really warranted a second glance.
Then I moved to the UK, and a whole new cheese world opened up for me. At first, I felt like the biggest hick in the universe ("what do you mean “American” isn’t a real kind of cheese?”) But then my cheese education began, and I’ve become one of those people who will spend $10 on a wedge of Parmesan cheese and grate it myself.
I could eat Boursin on bagels for breakfast, a white cheddar paired with apples for lunch, a hot, melty brie and strawberries for dessert, and creamy Camembert with just about anything, any time. A steak with a gorgonzola crust may make your arteries clang closed in protest, but your tongue will be happy! The Playfriends (except for Angel) love my Emmenthaler and Gruyere fondue. (And I’m looking for a fondue recipe that will satisfy all the Playfriends.)
I’ll eat goat cheese on just about anything, and honestly, I’d probably eat dirt if you mixed it with Neufchatel. Marscopone, ricotta, cottage – bring it on.
My appreciation of stinky cheeses is very limited, and I’m still on the fence about many of the “blue”-type cheeses. DG loves smoked cheeses, but, to me, barbeque should be smoked – not cheese. So, my cheese love is not absolute or without bounds. But there are still plenty of cheeses left for me to discover, and trust me, that’s a journey I look forward to!
I’m not ignorant of the downside to cheese; it can be high in fat, cholesterol and sodium, and therefore not the Heart Association’s Most Favorite Food. Soft, unpasteurized cheeses can also carry harmful bacteria. If you’re lactose-intolerant, cheese is probably not your best friend.
But cheese *is* a good-for-you food. It has high levels of calcium, phosphorous, and protein, and contains vitamins A, B-12, and D. Your bones and teeth are the obvious beneficiaries of cheese, but there is also some evidence that makes cheese a player in helping with hypertension, liver function, and even cancer prevention.
My Southern roots need not fear, though, because there is one cheese that many will turn their noses up at (and really isn’t even “cheese” by definition), but that I will never be able to forswear – no matter how refined my cheese palate becomes:
Good old Velveeta. You can’t beat Velveeta when it comes to pure melty-ness, and melty-ness is very important when it comes to making macaroni-and-cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and, of course, that party staple, Ro-Tel Dip.
So, are you a cheese freak? A cheese snob? Anti-cheese for some reason? Do share with the Playground…
**For more information than you could ever want, visit Cheese.com, a website that will educate you on everything from rind type to what cheese goes well with beer. It also links to places that will deliver cheese to your door and has a huge recipe database.