At the request of my dear friend gb, I am going to take a break from writing about “gross things.” Instead, I thought I’d fill my space today with a discussion on cheese. I know, at first glance it seems really off the wall, but cheese has actually been a pretty big influence in my gastrological life. The reason I have cheese on the brain is only in part inspired by gb himself. My brother-in-law depositing a sack with a rather large wheel of gouda on my doorstep actually triggered the trip down my cheddar laden memory lane.
The cheese wasn’t actually on my doorstep. He had placed the loops from the Blockbuster bag on the knob of my front door. Oddly, he didn’t even bother to knock to see if I wanted to accept the delicious gift myself. My husband told him I might be busy and if I didn’t answer to leave the cheese on the door, but I was in the living room feeding the baby when he showed up. I saw every move he made, and he didn’t knock. This might not have been odd if it wasn’t already in the high 80’s at barely after 8 am. Cheese, after all, is not something that improves by sitting in the sun. As soon as the bottle was finished, I leapt forth and placed the cheese into the cool safety of the refrigerator. I’m guessing it is pretty good cheese. I happen to love gouda*, but I’m on the damn diet and cheese is not known for its slimming properties. It’s actually not a gift from my brother-in-law, as those are rare indeed, but from my father-in-law. The two of them very recently returned from a bike/car tour of the Netherlands. I hear they know their cheeses over there, so one of these days when my calorie count hasn’t tipped slightly over its limit yet again, I’ll try some.
This gift of foreign cheese reminded me of my father. Not because he is foreign (he’s never lived out side Indiana), but because I think he loves cheese more than any other human being on the planet. Growing up, we had the standard meat and cheese drawer that comes with all refrigerators. It was always a bit tricky to shut this drawer as the plastic containers of port wine spreadable cheddar were packed in so tightly around the Hickory Farms beef logs and cheese balls. No bacon, lunchmeat or sausage ever graced this drawer. This in itself, might not be enough to suggest my father is a cheeseophile, but instead of a vegetable drawer, we had another cheese drawer. Although as everyone knows the fruit and veggie drawers are much more cavernous than the meat/cheese drawer, this refrigerated receptacle was also filled almost to overflowing with more cheesy products. This drawer was usually reserved for the larger blocks of cheese as well as the occasional bag of string cheese my step-mom likes. On any given day there were usually at least six different varieties of cheddar, some white, some mixed with other cheeses, but almost all of them with a severe degree of sharpness. Sometimes there would be a block of Swiss or gouda, but my father, despite his love of cheese, was not exactly adventurous in his culinary endeavors.
A weekly shopping trip with my step-mom usually resulted in the purchase of at least five different cheese products, and I’m not counting anything boxed or frozen like macaroni and cheese, although we always had a dozen or so boxes of various noodle/cheese dinners in the pantry. My father was perfectly content to make a meal out of Triscuits and a mixture of spreadable and solid cheeses, often topped with cuts from the beef logs.
The other drawer in our fridge, which should have been the lone bastion of health in this cow based refrigerator, to my knowledge never housed anything green, leafy or not artificially sweetened. For almost as long as I can remember, it was instead dedicated to housing candy bars. Opening it up was like the poor man’s trip to Willy Wonka’s. There were Mars bars, Snickers, Reese’s, Milky Ways, 100,000 Grands, Baby Ruth’s, Butterfingers, Clark bars, Charleston Chews (which I only reached for out of desperation when the drawer got low) and on occasion a bag or two of M & Ms. It was a heaven and I could get a candy bar anytime I wanted one. No limit was set on how many times a day I could open the drawer and pull from its wonderful contents. Of course this is yet another explanation of why at 12 I was already wearing women’s medium sizes. At that point I didn’t much care though. I just knew there was chocolaty goodness and that if I needed something to temper my sugar rush with, right next door there was cheese to spread on crackers. One shelf up there was also all the Pepsi and New York seltzers I could drink. Sigh…those were good days.
The candy bar drawer disappeared not long after I went off to college. Since my step-mom was diagnosed with diabetes, a colander full of grapes is almost always on the bottom shelf and the fruit and veggie drawer, though relatively empty, usually at least has a bag of salad in it. The cheese drawers are both still there, although they aren’t quite as full as they used to be. Since my dad works 24 hour shifts at the firehouse, he keeps some of it stocked there instead. Still, considering there usually isn’t much of substance to eat at my parent’s house (my step-mom doesn’t cook), it’s nice to know there are always four boxes of Triscuits somewhere in the house to add cheese to if I ever need some sustenance.
*which, my husband and his family pronounce how-da, rhyming with the New England pronunciation of chowder, and I am constantly baffled by this—I’m not sure if it’s a southern thing or just a weird family thing they do. I’m chalking it up to something oddly southern, like eating possum, which I can’t imagine any of them doing, but fits my nice southern stereotype.