Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Favorite Dairy Product?

This is a tough question.  It's similar to asking the epic question: Favorite wizard - Gandalf or Dumbledore?

For me, though, it's: Favorite Dairy Product- Cheese or Yogurt?

And while I love the versatility of yogurt as a breakfast food and a baking ingredient, I must, in the end, opt for cheese.  For the endless variety.

But here's what is a little sad to me: that for us Americans, cheese is SO limited.  I know I was fully grown before I knew that "fresh" mozzarella was not that semi-dried, shredded, bagged stuff produced by Kraft, et al.  And I know I was inexcusably old when I discovered Parmesan cheese's natural form.

I know.  I know.  Please pick your jaws up off the floor now.  It's shocking, but not surprising, I think.  As a child, we ate such exotic, foreign foods like tacos and La Choy chow mein.  I cannot imagine my mom buying a block of Gouda...and I cannot imagine my dad being willing to try it.  I don't intend to libel my parents - that's just the way it was.  They were more concerned about affording decent food and a warm shelter for us, as opposed to opening the world of foreign cheeses to us.  God Bless Them.

But, since my husband and I are easily able to meet the first two needs (and others), why not branch into foreign cheese?  Why ask why?  Just do it.  (Genius advertising jingles!)

The last couple of days, I've taken a few pages from the French manual of eating, and served a plate of fruit and cheese to my family before the "main dish" (also known as "leftovers").  My local grocery store carried these three guys:

Camembert from France (cow's milk)

Gruyere from Switzerland (cow's milk)

Manchego from Spain (sheep's milk)

As it turns out, true connoisseurs eat the rind on the Camembert (cah mem beh).  However, our family (neophytes) liked the taste better without.  The cheese itself seemed bland and flavorless to me, but perhaps that would be called mild?  I don't know the exact terminology yet.

Next up was the Gruyere, and the smell and flavor could not be any more different.  The Camb is soft, the Gruy is hard.  The Camb is mild, the Gruy is not.  The Camb has a slight grass smell, the Gruy is quite pungent.  This was actually my and my husband's favorite choice.

The kids, on the other hand, unanimously chose the Manchego as their favorite this round.  Milder-tasting than the Gruyere, the Manchego did have more personality than the Camembert.   I can see why they favored it.

In short, a great time and a great culinary experiment.  We definitely will be trying new cheeses.  The weirder, the our motto this summer!

But, a disclaimer: it can get expensive.  Foreign cheeses cost more money than Kraft Singles.  Just so you know.  Also, the French don't eat a whole block of Brie in one sitting, and neither did we.  That's just common sense.

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