The song from Oliver! always starts running through my head whenever I think about cheese. Seriously. It’s one of those things that just makes the heavens since. I’m a cheese snob, and I’ll admit it. Those “pasteurized cheese food product” items that try to pass themselves off as the genuine article? Not in my house.
Granted, there was a time when Kraft Mac & Cheese was my main source of cheese. Well, that and that big green can. When I was in junior high, I used to put some of that Parmesan into a small bowl and microwave it until it fused together. Mostly because I didn’t know any better. When you grow up in a house with a mother who doesn’t actually like food, you get creative (and in my case, you learn to cook and enjoy it once you’re on your own).
Then and now, however, I can’t stomach any of the blues. I have a highly sensitive palate (or at least that’s what I call it) and there are some foods that are just too strong that I have a hard time eating. Peanut butter (put it in a cookie and I can sniff it out at 10 yards). Red wine (those darn tannins are just too strong for me). And blue cheese (blech).
I’ve tried to like them, but I can’t. The fact that my husband adores them has its pluses and minuses. He could live on blue cheese stuffed olives, which a) are repellent to me so I can’t share and b) aren’t exactly cheap. Then again, when our feta starts to go bad (but before there’s actual mold), he thinks it’s awesome and enjoys it that way, so we have less waste.
The fact is that mold likes cheese. It grows on the outside of the cheese in my fridge regularly when I don’t eat it quickly enough – which is only partly due to the fact that I have 8 or 10 different cheeses in my fridge at any given time. Fortunately, the mold only grows on the outside, and I’ve long ago learned to simply slice off the offending part and use the rest of my cheese.
But now I learned that when many kinds of cheese are made, mold is introduced into the cheese as it ages and ripens. And in fact, mold is what makes a lot of cheeses taste the way they do. I hadn’t really thought about it before, not until Kathe Lison described walking into all sorts of caves where cheeses were aging and seeing mold growing (on purpose) on so many different varieties of cheese.
And that leaves me to reconcile the fact that I like moldy cheese. Or at least some moldy cheese. And given her description of the flavors of some of the cheeses she tasted while traveling throughout France, many of which are aged with mold, there are more I want to try. Epoisses. Beaufort. Mont d’Or. And that’s just the start of my list.
Go figure. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, but obviously mold isn’t mold. There are so many different kinds, which is why so many cheese makers now purchase lab purified mold for their cheese. So if you hear about me having a cheese tasting party, be forewarned, there may be more mold on the menu than you’d expect. Or maybe I’ll chicken out and there won’t be.
This post was inspired by The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison, who traveled to France in search of its artisanal cheeses. Join From Left to Write on August 22 as we discuss The Whole Fromage. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.