Monday, June 10, 2013


Proust had his madeleine – I have English Cheshire cheese.  A great English Cheshire cheese is very great indeed, but even a less than great one still resonates because it was so much a part of my growing up, and I still love it more than is sensible of even quite comprehensible.

And now my local Gelson’s supermarket is selling it:  Somerdale Golden Cheshire. Somerdale is a British Company, based in Somerset, “one of the leading exporters of cheese and dairy products in the UK” according to the website.  They also say they export to over “50 countries around the world, supplying over 250 cheeses.”

250 Cheeses!!?? Isn’t that a few too many?  Didn’t there used to be just 9 “real” British cheese.  Somerdale make up the numbers with oddities like, Wensleydale with Fig and honey, white Stilton with mango and ginger, Cheddar with whisky.  I find this all pretty redundant.  If I want whisky with my Cheddar I’m quite capable of arranging it myself, but no doubt others feel differently.

Cheshire, Somerdale tell us, “is a hard-pressed, open textured, crumbly cheese with a clean sharp flavor. It is defined by its moist crumbly texture and mildly salty taste. Made both white and colored, it is one of the oldest recorded cheeses in history.” Well, yes but … my Encyclopedia of Cheese by Juliet Harbutt, published in 1999, says, “fewer than a handful of cheese makers still make the traditional clothbound Cheshire using raw milk.  Most of the cheeses are factory-made and lack any real depth of character.”  I don’t doubt that this is true but oddly enough the lack of depth and character is precisely what connects it with my youth.

Anyway, for better or worse, I have been buying and eating Somerdale Golden Cheshire  a little bit obsessively – the store has been having a low introductory price, and I want them to continue selling it – and I fear it may not be to most American tastes.

My local supermarket, Gelson’s, used to be Mayfair Market – I have a mug somewhere celebrating the change, or perhaps celebrating the death of Mayfair.  Now those of you with eidetic memories may recall a great photograph by Philip-Lorca diCorcia:

It’s one of a series of photographs in which he approached street hustlers, asked them what their rate was for sex, and then paid them that rate as their modeling fee.  You may pick the morality/exploitation out of that one until the cows come.

DiCorcia also took the remarkable picture below, from the series A Storybook Life.

 You will notice in the background the magic words Continental Cheese Co. Inc.  How it all comes together.  And then in the New York Post I just found the headline, “Say cheese for good teeth.”    According to a study in the journal General Dentistry people who eat cheese develop a high pH in their mouth – the higher the pH, the lower the chance of cavities.  Like you would need a reason to eat cheese.

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