Here is the fifth entry in a feature called “Cheese’s Hidden Gems”. These are profiles of cheeses I personally consider to be special because each of them offer a thrilling and unique experience, if you can find them! Though I wouldn’t give the cheese itself high marks for flavor, it was the kind of cheese you could just hang with, for hours, no big deal.
Let’s say you’re out on a date with someone special, or maybe no one special, or you’re just dining out alone on a Friday night because you’re not special. You’re pecking at the dish you ordered because you hate it; you knew you were going to hate it because it has mushrooms, but you’ve been pushing yourself to eat mushrooms lately and honestly that has to manifest into eating mushrooms at some point, like actually eating them in real life and not just “wanting to like them” in the abstract so that you seem less difficult of a person in case you’re ever in a social situation that matters. But the problem is you really hate mushrooms and eating them has always caused you nothing but nausea and grief and regret. That’s when you look over to see the couple at the next table over gorging themselves on something so unique, so peculiar, so American.
This act they’re engaged in seems at once completely casual and wholly unnatural. You want——no, you need——whatever they’re having this instant, so you go to motion for the waiter, who is actually right behind you, and you accidentally smack him in the dick. After an awkward double-apology, you ask for whatever the couple at that next table over is eating and the waiter says, “sorry, that was the last piece.” Whether or not he’s telling you the truth is irrelevant, because you hit him in the dick, and so you gotta just let it go. Those are the rules.
What that couple was eating is called “501 Cheese©,” from Levi Strauss & Company. According to a cursory Google search just now, it’s the only cheese ever commissioned by a denim jean company. Yes, even though they usually only make jeans and and shorts and jean jackets (and jean shorts [jorts]), Levi collaborated with cheese producers from all over the nation to put out this novelty wheel in an attempt to shake up both the jean and cheese industry.
From the website:
It’s an aged cheddar wrapped in a clean, crisp blue denim rind. Informal but prepared—you could take it with you wherever jeans are welcome: the doctor’s office, an impromptu street brawl, or Sunday mass.www.levistrauss.com
The story of how this cheese came about changes depending on who tells is, so here are the facts: One day, the CEO of Levi’s was relaxing in his stately cushioned chair with his feet up on a big oak desk, puffing a cigar full of marijuana. He called his secretary into his office and said, “Get this down for me, will ya? Blue jeans, blue cheese. Blue jean cheese. Gosh, there’s gotta to be something there, right?” His secretary just shrugged and said, “I have no idea.” The executive grunted, sent her away, and forgot all about it. Five years went by before that memo resurfaced into the full-blown marriage of denim and cheese we see today (though the idea to make it a blue cheese did not survive the focus groups).
Man, I just love this stuff, even if it’s very difficult to cut into the rind without scissors, not to mention it doesn’t taste too good. Oh, also, the wheel I had was filled with bugs(!) which apparently sometimes hide in the pockets(?). The denim rind did smell like gasoline which I found kind of a nice touch but I’m sure wouldn’t please everyone. I will say, 501 does pair delightfully with strongly-flavored booze, as this is a cheese that is best left untasted.
Although 501 Cheese was the result of a market research gone haywire, it’s still a noble effort, and an affable, humble, down-to-earth snack, made for the working-class man who just got off of long shift of backbreaking dirt-work and just wants to sit on his couch and take his oppressive tool belt off so he can rest his weary bones and eat a cheese that’s dressed just like him.