I hate American cheese. Or, wait, excuse me – American-style cheese food product.
Here at Chez Crankyface, the Mlle. has spent the better part of a year trying to forget about cheese altogether, in an effort to be more conscientious about her health. Perhaps being more healthy might enable her to do things like be less cranky, or provide this blog with more knitting content, or stop referring to herself in the third person.
Naturally, when one tells oneself (with a sternly wagging finger) that there are now things one is not allowed to have, suddenly those forbidden fruits are EVERYWHERE. Jumping out from behind shrubbery, attacking the windshield as one exits the driveway, dropping from the eaves in a desperate attempt to land in one’s handbag. Furthermore, if one happens to be ME, the temptation to stuff one’s chubby little pie-hole with things that beforehand, were hardly on the radar at all.
I have always enjoyed cheese. Who couldn’t like cheese (besides the lactose intolerant)? It’s just…heaven. Melty and gooey if warm, chewy and firm if cold, meaty or stinky or gamey or a bacterial house of sin. While I might really appreciate cheese, the award for Most Cheese-Devoted goes to le Monsieur, hands down. He happens to be a Cheesetarian by nature AND nurture, a pathological attraction that almost transcends his European-style desire for fresh, crusty bread of any sort. In Conehead-esque quantities.
Many men (primarily the red-blooded, hirsute, grunting cavemen variety that we Americans are repeatedly informed are both superior and by far more common), when confronted by the concept of going vegan, insist that they could never, ever, in a thousand years give up steak and bratwurst. Ever. Their chest hair would shrivel on the forlorn shells that had once been them, their man-bits turn inward in shame, and the power of flame would be taken from them by their stronger, manlier peers. Monsieur was, to some level, of this opinion as well. Give up meat? What else is there, then? Bread? he seemed to say. And yet, the decision to improve our health by way of meat and dairy avoiding fell from his lips, not mine.
To his surprise, it was giving up the cheese that pained him most. For weeks, he later admitted, he would even dream of it, lightly toasted on a thick slice of crusty sourdough, strings of delicious buttery yellow dropping like molten lava through the airy cracks into his hand, the opiates of Her Majesty Dairy flooding his poor, withered brain. Had there been cheese in the house, I feel certain I would have woken in the middle of the night to the treacherous ding of the toaster oven and gentle wafts of burnt crumbs. The only way he was able to quit cheese was to go cold turkey. Even then, it took a solid month of dairy abstinence to really strengthen his manly resolve, and at any unguarded moment he is in danger of relapse.
We are, essentially, vegan. But because we are not vegan for ethical or moral reasons, we do occasionally plan to indulge ourselves, and for one meal, return to the intoxicating embrace of the cheesy, meaty serpent. Which, in retrospect, sounds really, really pervy. You get the idea, right?
Sometimes it’s a reward for a job well done, but usually it’s some sort of event with friends or family. An afternoon watching the game at The Worst Bar In Columbus (I miss you, giant wings of awesomeness!), a birthday celebration with friends at a fantastic modern tapas restaurant (little inukshuks of ribs!), or a family get-together at one of the best restaurants in Cincinnati when someone else is paying (don’t think I didn’t enjoy the hell out of that 28-day dry-aged New York strip).
The point is, we pick and choose what will make us miserable the next day (do I have to tell you what happens when you go months without eating dairy or red meat?). There are things that are worth the pain (and of course, the pleasure) and things that are not. Now that I am in the position to be an unapologetic food snob (as if I wasn’t already), what were once whispers of preference have become Laws Of Scientific Principle.
American cheese food product started on the list of Things That Aren’t Worth Eating, but over time that list has changed. Now there are two lists. Things That Aren’t Worth Eating But Have Some Inherent Value, and Things That Ought To Be Removed From Our Collective Consciousness. Guess which list American-style cheese food product is on now? I bet you can.
I enjoyed it in my childhood, of course. The consistency of Elmer’s glue, a color that does not exist in nature, a taste that…well…I was young and naive, so when someone told me it was yummy, I figured maybe there was something wrong with ME. I know better, now. The taste may hearken back to childhood in a grilled cheese sandwich on nearly insubstantial white bread, accompanied by a cup of canned soup, but really, I wish it didn’t. I wish it had been Gouda or Gruyere oozing over a thick slice of hearty bread, accompanied by a basil-tomato bisque thick enough to be mistaken for pizza sauce. If that had been the case, though, would I take it for granted when I grew up? Would I still be a food snob, or globbing ketchup on my microwaved styrofoam Cup o’ Noodles??
There are so many better things to eat! I want to list every single cheese and tell you exactly why it is so superior, but that would make this one hella long post. Besides, what would descriptions be without pictures? Since there happen to be somewhere in the vicinity of 700 or so well-known cheeses (thanks, Google!), I’ll have to leave it to the turophiles out there to do a proper job of it.
Be adventurous! Next time you’re at the grocery store, try some Muenster, or a proper Parmesan Reggiano, or some Camembert, or a nice baked Brie! Dang. I could really go for some Brie…