My Feelings About Cheese Mar22


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My Feelings About Cheese

My feelings about cheese aren’t straight-forward and why should they be? Who amongst the general populace, least of all vegans perhaps, could feel utterly secure in eating what is the animal equivalent of breast milk? And yet, despite the fact that cheese is exactly this, it is a most popular food stuff, eaten every day by myriad people and in a dizzying array of forms. One can’t help referencing Borat here where he asks the unsuspecting store attendant “What is this?” The answer of course is “Cheese.” But he keeps on asking anyway despite the iron predictability of the answer. The reason he is able to ask repeatedly without seeming to be too unreasonable is because of how many types of cheese there are. The display must be thirty feet long and there is row upon row of cheese products with different packaging, different applications, different demographics. One can easily imagine that there is the block of cheese for the man or maybe the no-nonsense single adult who likes to wield and knife and who enjoys eating chunks of cheese, to choose his own width of slice you might say. You know there’s going to be the sliced cheese with the robust and rigid and wholly wasteful plastic packaging for the mother of two who hasn’t time to slice the cheese for her little darlings and who can never judge the appropriate width of slice anyway. The sliced cheese is also directed I suspect squarely at the lover of the toasted sandwich. Then there’s the grated cheese, I mean the stuff that’s grated for you. This is for the pizza makers, the hipsters. Very few eat the grated stuff in fistfuls while you can well imagine plenty of people enjoying a slice – whether pre-cut or self-cut – before a run or say, X-Factor or a sneaky one while preparing a toasted sandwich. Then there are the really very modern incarnations of cheese, the ones with the packaging aimed at children with the cow winking at you or the Scandinavian-looking blonde-haired worryingly Nazi-like children holding up an example of the product as if to say to you, “If you buy this you can be like me, beautiful and somehow death-less.”


It’s all too much sometimes, the cheese. Does anyone ever really think about how it’s made? It’s milk isn’t it? Or is that butter? I mean, how does one make cheese? I could look it up but I don’t want to. I know there’s animal fat in it and lots of it at that. I mean, if you want to eat an animal but hate the sight of blood, cheese is the way to go. The other advantage of cheese-eating as opposed to flesh is that with flesh you get the vascular and the visceral remnants, stringy bits and gristle, veins and arteries, wobbly clear stuff you sometimes see on ham. Is that marrow or what? With cheese the animal fades away like turning down the sound of a recording of an animal being butchered. And it’s so malleable too; you can do anything with it. I might have mentioned the French but in comparison to us or maybe the Americans, the French are purists. They like it smelly and ugly, the realer the better. They seem to want to get medieval with cheese, climb up inside the goat or the cow while it’s alive and lick the interior of its milky bits. Ugh! But you gotta hand it to the French; they’re uncomplicated and unapologetic. We in Ireland tend to go for the sanitised version of the product with plenty of tin-foil and processing; the more it looks like what it isn’t the better.


I blame Jane Fonda. Not exclusively of course; there’s also the Italians. I’ll get to them later. First, let’s deal with that saucy minx Fonda, daughter of Henry and sixties agitator. She got a heart attack from over-exercising back sometime in the eighties. She was as fit as a greyhound there for a long time. She’s still a pretty athletic septuagenarian or whatever she is nowadays – it’s hard to know with these Hollywood types. She started a workout craze in the eighties, releasing several fitness videos and pressuring women to look a certain way. It’s easier when your career is in movies of course; looking well is par for the course. The ordinary slobs who watched her videos must have found it far harder than she did. Maybe the heart attack was her way of keeping it real? What’s all this got to do with cheese, you ask. I’ll tell you: skimmed milk. Part and parcel of being slim and Fonda-like was avoiding fat, animal fat especially. So the companies, like companies will, latched on to this and started removing the cream from the milk. Of course cream is edible and a food company isn’t going to lose an opportunity to market something that can be eaten and doesn’t kill you overnight so they decided to kill two birds as it were and market the cream-less milk and the cream. The cream was turned into cheese and so they found myriad ways of selling cheese. That’s why we have the plethora of cheese things we have today: the cheese-strings and the cheese sauce, the cheese-flavoured munchies for the bed-bound and the professionally unhealthy tribe of over-eaters traipsing our streets; the pizzas of course – don’t get me started on the pizzas!


Finally the Italians. As promised, I need to say a few words about them. Now the Italians know a good pizza because they invented them and they tend to cook them in stone ovens with oak fires and the likes. What we get here in this part of the world mostly is the infamous cheap versions, the frozen pizzas that cost typically €2  to €5. “Sure,” as Frank Drebbin said in The Naked Gun, “it cleans you out but it leaves you feeling hollow inside.” For whatever we did to offend the Italians, say, both World Wars and Ray Houghton, we’ve paid for it; our slow gut-killing, zit-bulging, grease-inducing, organ-cracking punishment is known as the frozen pizza.