I am a big fan of cheese. It comes in many subtle and not so subtle guises. Pretty much I like it all, they all have a place and a purpose. Although you would have to ‘waterboard me’ to buy Velveeta (not quite cheese) of my own volition, my wife makes a wonderful creamy casserole of Pasta and Chicken with it. I always go back for seconds!

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There is another not quite cheese that I have a passion for, Primula cheese spread. This delicacy alas is not available in the US, but a few years ago a good friend of my wife managed to get me some. It was yummy! It was everything I remembered from my youth.

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But when it comes down to it, I really prefer real cheese. Hard, soft, smelly, moldy, I am game. There is the perfect setting for any cheese.

For a while I played with Cheddar, aged cheddar is a thing of awe. A slab of crusty bread, real butter, and malt vinegar Pickled Onions, you have the ultimate lunch snack! Alas good aged Cheddar is hard to find. About the best out of a bad bunch is Cracker Barrel. But it just does not hit the spot. Cheese just never seems to translate well into mass production.

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I went off on a different search. Who doesn’t love really stinky Blue Cheese? I was quite surprised to find it in my local supermarket. Blue Cheese of course covers a whole raft of cheeses. Danish Blue may be the best well known, but personally I prefer a good Stilton. Roquefort is also a good option. But pretty much the average Megamart only has Generic Blue Cheese. I got bored. Real Blue Cheese has body and bite. The ones I tried just had bite but no depth of character.

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A cheese style very different is that found in Edam and Gouda. Although they are close cousins I prefer Edam. It is mild, hard, yet creamy. But I still was unhappy. It was not what I recalled from my past.

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There was one reoccurring feature in my cheese exploration, they all seemed to be made in Wisconsin.

A couple of days ago my wife told me that she was heading to the Megamart and asked if there was anything I wanted. Yes, you guessed it, cheese. I wanted something different, a nice creamy soft cheese like Brie or Camembert. She returned with a nice wedge of Brie, and not that it matters, it did not seem to originate from Wisconsin.

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People have strange notions about Brie. Let me explain the rules of engagement. That white stuff forming the crust around it is indeed mold. But it is good mold! It is perfectly edible and adds to the overall flavor so don’t go cutting it off and trashing it. There is nothing wrong with some mold! The Yoghurt and cheese makers would be out of business without mold.

Everyone has their own favorite way of eating cheese, for me though it is always with some tasty, crusty bread and some unsalted butter. No sliced white loaf with a shelf life of two years, no margarine, and no Kraft Singles!

Sure some might think me a little eccentric, but after all it is my damn tummy that is involved.

So what have I discovered in my recent adventures in cheese? The word disappointment is too strong, but I have to confess that none of the cheeses came up to expectation. They were all copies and although quite good copies, they lacked in one way or another.

I think the word ‘maturity’ is what all of these cheeses failed in. But that is hardly surprising, the maker is faced with an economic challenge. Sitting on inventory does nothing for the bottom line. In the cheese industry inventory equates to the aging process. Aging is a problem, it is money tied up. Instead, the JIT (Just In Time) inventory control system used in the Automotive industry is employed, but it does not work so well with Cheese.

Cheese needs love and I just don’t see it with mass production. A good cheese is a thing of awe and wonder. It is a treat for all of the senses. The smell, the tactile engagement of cutting it, the auditory adventure of grating it or cutting it, the sheer beauty of the look, and of course the taste.

To steal the idea from the Brit beer drinking folks that created the Campaign For Real Beer (CAMRA), I think we need a Campaign For Real Cheese!

Simon Barrett

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