Eating cheese is one of life’s great pleasures! My earliest childhood memories of cheese are the happiness brought by peeling the shiny foil off segments of Kraft processed cheese spread and by rolling the red wax coating of Edam into tiny balls. That happiness has not been diminished by the passing years: the tastes, the smells, the colours and patterning, the differing textures, the regional differences and their many cheese-makers all contribute to a pleasure that is equal to my boyhood delight.
The craft of cheese-making has a sense of mystery about it. Curds are made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats and even buffalos and then cut, strained, shaped and pressed in all manner of different ways. The finished cheese might be washed in, well, cider or just about anything; alternatively it might be wrapped in a coating –like Edam, my childhood favourite. And that is not it, because the cheese will be stored carefully to allow it to mature. In a sense a cheese is always changing until the day the last crumb is eaten.
There are thousands, probably tens of thousands, different types of cheese: the cheese-eater of a curious disposition will stumble frequently upon cheeses that are new to him or her. For some it is a hobby, like stamp collecting, others strive to be connoisseurs (“Mildred, can you taste the meadow herbs in this cheese?”), and yet others who are like football fans –interested in and passionate supporters of cheeses from a region that has a special meaning to them. Yes, cheeses are imbued with a strong sense of place –Cheddar is about the English West Country, even if it was made in Australia.
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