Say Cheese...


Is no meal complete for a European without cheese at the end of it? In America, they nibble on cheese before a meal, though I use a very wide definition of the word. In the US there are of course some delicious local cheeses but they also provide Cheez Whiz which is 'cheese' in a spray can. (Allegedly... it actually isn't cheese in the real sense of the word though the can does contain the ingredients to make cheese). You don't even need a cracker, you just stick out your tongue and give the can a squirt. America also seems to provide hard cheeses the colour of condemned veal and others that look like they have been rolled in crushed M&Ms. Although this kind of mass produced wax is perfectly legal to sell and eat you are breaking FDA rules if you import real Brie or other foreign cheeses that exceed a bacteria limit. What is sold in the USA has been irradiated to kill off that Froggy, Italian or English natural bacteria!

...and another thing

The late General Charles De Gaulle, when President of France, following another furious row with his ministers famously lamented

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

 But actually cheese is one of the real contributions from France to my daily life. (As a young man I liked their letters as well).

...and another thing

In Asia, cheese is viewed with suspicion. The idea of eating something that intrinsically has bacteria and mould in it, is part of the reason, as is their commendably fat free diet. The Japanese make a cheese with cherry blossom and the Tibetans make a hard Yak’s cheese called Chhurpi. It’s so hard you can crack a tooth on it. I found it very useful for putting under uneven table legs in a restaurant to stop it wobbling.

My love of cheese is not universal. Goat’s cheese is close to toe jam and with the exception of Roquefort I am suspicious of sheep’s cheese (Bet you can’t say sheep’s cheese three times quickly)! Funnily enough the biggest consumers of cheese per capita in the world are the Greeks, 85% of which is feta…..which to me tastes like bathroom grouting!

Mexican food and its maniacal link with cheese is a huge problem. When the Good Lord looked down from heaven after a few hectic days of work, France, Italy, the UK were all great places to grow cheese. Mexico was not. So what possessed the Mexicans to put cheese on practically everything that is defined as Mexican cuisine? It can’t be. Cheese is not a natural food produced there!

Whenever I am in Mexico I challenge myself to eat a meal without cheese. Even at breakfast I have been offered grated chunks on my cornflakes. What did they eat before the processed junk they put on everything was invented? I am damned sure that the soldiers who stormed the Alamo had not been eating burritos stuffed with mass produced gloop from the States. Or maybe that’s why they were so angry????

...and another thing

Cheese production around the globe is more than the combined worldwide production of coffee, tobacco, tea, and cocoa beans. So we clearly like it but whilst I am prepared to entertain arguments about whether Brie is better than Camembert or if English cheeses are superior as a group to Italian or Spanish, one thing I cannot agree on is eating it before a pudding (dessert to you Yanks).

In Europe everyone eats cheese then dessert. In England it’s always the other way round. Dessert first then cheese. I guess the explanation is the digestif. In England it was traditionally port that goes very well with both Stilton and Cheddar, less so with treacle tart or spotted dick. In France it’s brandy, a drink that is a disaster with cheese, but sets off a creme  brûlée or crepes suzette rather well.

...and another thing

Sorry to burst your bubble but mice don’t really like cheese. If you have a mousetrap it’s far more effective to use fruit or grain. However cats do like cheese so be warned that Mr. Jinx is far more likely to get his nose caught in a trap than Pixie and Dixie.

Finally as to saying cheese for a camera, I was told a wonderful story about the late photographer Norman Parkinson. Probably the most famous picture of the current Queen Elizabeth, her late mother and sister Margaret is a portrait taken by Norman Parkinson called Sisters. I have attached a copy of the three all dressed in velvet. The story was that Margaret was not in the best of moods and the shoot was very tense. Norman got them together and this time as he went to close the shutter said, ” Now on three say…Lesbian.”

The resulting expressions stemming from him not saying cheese is the fabulous portrait below.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 19.59.16

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One Comment

  1. Andrea says:

    Mark, I think you need to come over and taste some of local cheeses in the US, there are some amazing artisan cheese makers actually rivaling those inFrance and elsewhere on the continent!! I was a snob, but find that I no longer have to hide my french cheese in my luggage and hope it doesn’t contaminate the whole plane…and another thing!

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