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More Cheese Please, March

Cheese is a lovely food that spices up snack time and can be added to sandwiches of all kinds. Ranging from sharp or mild cheddars to herbal-y goudas, cheese is just plain good. But as most foods are, it still has a certain aspect of preparation that needs to be addressed. After being shipped off and into stores, it sits in a cooler till the need to slice it arises. Certain cheeses happen to sit on the shelf a little longer though. Not because there’s too much on the shelf, but rather because it’s ignored out of consideration for the sanity of cheese workers. Some cheeses are like torture to un-wax, slice, and clean up. So before buying cheese at the store, maybe think about just how much effort went into getting it on the shelf.

As a cheese handler myself, Goat Gouda with Rosemary is by far my least favorite cheese to slice. Upon opening the paper packaging, small seeds of rosemary begin to fall onto the workspace. Each time the wheel has to be moved, many more pieces of the herb scatter about. Once the wire makes contact with the cheese, small bits go flying every which way. By the time each piece is packaged, the floor, wire, table, and clothes of the slicer are left covered in rosemary. The only thing that makes this cheese worthy of being sold is the delicious salty goat cheese flavor, mixed with a strong accent of rosemary.

Next is an ominous wax-coated wheel. Aged Gouda from Holland has a great nutty edge with small pockets of salt to set it apart texturally from other aged gouda’s. But again, it isn’t a favorable cheese for slicers. The tough wax becomes frustrating to pull off as the hours go by. Wax has certain levels of solidity. It can be soft and taken off in minutes, but aged gouda wax is as hard as a rock. To lessen the time it takes for the wax to be peeled off, thawing it overnight is a pretty common solution. The horror doesn’t end at the wax though. Since it’s aged so long, the gouda is tough to cut through. Because the rind is so tough and I use a hand-operated cheese wire, the wire usually snaps a few times trying to get through this cheese.

Parmesan is by far one of the most popular choices of cheese for just about anything. Dominating the playing field, parmesan is used on salads, soups, as a snack, melted, and on pizza. This tough cheese is most commonly shredded or grated, but before it can be reduced to those forms, it takes muscle and plenty of wires to slice through it. Coming in wheels, Parmesan is one of the hardest cheeses to cut through. I can’t begin to count how many wires I’ve broken in the process of making it into blocks. Even before the wire, a knife is necessary to get through the rind. To this day, I still remember the feeling of sore arms as I desperately pulled the wire through the seemingly un-sliceable wheel of Parmesan.

Various cheeses at Kingmas Market.

Even with several downsides to the preparation of cheese, it’s still one of my favorite foods. Thankfully, cheese usually takes softer forms that are almost effortless to slice through, so putting up with the few, difficult outliers is worth it in the end. 

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