WArning: this post contains vulgarity
Throughout my years of working behind the counters of some of the most renowned cheese shops in the United States, I’ve accrued quite a bit of exclusive knowledge. I can tell you things like what kind of fruit goes with what cheese, which cheeses go best with wine, which cheese rinds are edible——I’m pretty sure I’m the only guy who knows this stuff! So please, won’t you let this very basic and easy to follow cheese guide help you better understand cheese, so that whenever you think of cheese, you think of me, Cheese Peterson? Maybe?
A long time ago when I first started out at Helen’s, a tiny little cheese shop in East Texas, my supervisor Stupid Tim and I were working a dead afternoon when one of our regulars paid us a visit. This was my first encounter with him and I knew from the start this guy was trouble. He came up to the counter, looked me right in the eye and said, “Hiya, I was just in the neighborhood, and I gotta ask, what’s your favorite cheese?” He wore a grin like one of Satan’s hounds.
As I considered my answer, I noticed Stupid Tim watching me closely and I immediately knew I was being put on. With no choice but to answer, I went with honesty and said, “cheddar.”
Suddenly, he and Tim exploded into laughter——unhinged, malevolent laughter. They had obviously planned this exchange, perhaps for weeks (knowing how slow Tim works).
Through tears and gasps the customer asked Tim, “This is the guy? Cheese Peterson? The one who loves cheddar cheese?”
“Yeah, that’s him,” Tim laughed back. “Cheese here just loves cheddar. I call him ‘Cheddar Cheese.’ Isn’t that right, Mr. Cheddar Cheese?” He gave my shoulder a shove and got up real close to my face but I remained quiet and still, looking straight ahead like a good soldier. They kept laughing anyway. Then the customer regained his composure and locked eyes with me.
“So, your real name is Cheese, huh?” More chuckles tumbled out of his wet lips.
“Yeah man, that’s my name. What’s your n——”
“—SO then if I FART, that means I’m cutting a YOU?”
Then he laughed, and then Tim laughed, and the thing is, all three of us laughed. The thing is, if I find a joke halfway decent, I laugh no matter what, even if the joke is at my expense, and I’m especially prone to laugh at fart jokes, so in this case, I didn’t stand a chance. But you’re not really supposed to laugh at your bully’s humiliating burns, and unfortunately nobody ever told me that til like a week later.
There I stood laughing while being laughed at. I know laughing was a loser move, but I had no choice. When you’re in the shit, you have to deal with shitty people like that customer, whose name is Jan, pronounced “Yahn” but spelled J-A-N like Jan.
The day he told me his name, I wanted to really make him pay for it, like “oh my god your name is Jăn” and laugh right in his face, maybe ask him if he was born in JANuary. But I didn’t, because number one he’s ex-military, but more importantly, Jan and I are members of the same club. Maybe he didn’t realize it but I did. Both our names are like silly hats we can’t ever take off, and spending your life having to answer for this silly hat you never chose to wear all the time in the first place can eventually make you hate yourself, maybe treat other people like shit as a result. Well, that’s Jan in a nutshell: a lonely, self-loathing jerk who treats people like shit. Not me, though. Jan.
OKAY! let’s talk about some cheese!!!
Synopsis: It was the first cheese I ever loved, and then broke up with, and then took back when times got tough. One time, when I was working at Wedgey’s back in Brooklyn, I ate an entire pound of Fiscalini Vintage Cheddar over the course of my six hour shift. At some point Samantha the manager asked me, “Where’s that cheddar I asked you to portion?” I smiled at her and burped while patting my belly. Though she wrote me up for it, she did laugh (while pulling at her hair and saying, “Again? What the fuck?”). It meant a lot to me that she laughed.
Suggestions: Cheddar is the one cheese that always satisfies. It goes well with everything but needs no partner. You can cube it up and toss it in a salad or you can take the whole block and throw it out the window. You can shred it over nachos, you can rub it on your crotch, nobody cares. It’s your cheese and your roommates are vegan. With cheddar, you can do anything.
Synopsis: God I motherfucking love blue cheese. Can I just say that? Can I get that off of my chest already? Oh man, when customers come in and say, “I like everything but blue cheese,” I want to reach across the counter and thrash at their faces! I want to leave scratch marks on their eyelids and bruises on their cheeks for saying something so obscene——so obtuse! You don’t LIKE blue cheese? YOU don’t like blue cheese? You DON’T like blue cheese? Oh, wow, gee, let me alert the media. Let me go tweet at CNN for a minute. Let me tape your photograph to the wall so that everyone will know that YOU are the one who does not like blue cheese. It is so funny to me that these people think they’re special just because they don’t like blue cheese, when the irony is it’s actually people who like blue cheese who are special.
Suggestions: Just eat it, you clown! Put it on a cracker, pair it with apples, smear it on your gums, it’s all good. Once I put blue cheese in an meatloaf and that was NOT good, but forget about that. Look, you take a nice warm slice of whole grain toast, some local honey, a crispy slice of bacon (or two), a fresh, a hot cup of pour-over coffee, a new issue of your favorite magazine, a nice comfy couch, a lover who understands your jokes, a healthy support group of friends who return your texts and a boss who respects you despite everything, all you need is a little bit of blue cheese to make it all sing! You could substitute any one of those other ingredients with good whiskey or hallucinogens but don’t rock both unless you’re a pro.
Synopsis: Um, Gouda is actually pronounced how-da. Did you know that, stupid? I’m sorry, that was really mean, but that’s how I was taught. Sometimes, to get an important message across, you gotta be really mean. At least, that’s what I was taught. Gouda is a Dutch cheese, named after the village it comes from: Gouda, South Holland. That’s right, there’s more than one Holland. And did you know that Holland isn’t even the name of a country? The name of the country is “The Netherlands.” Ayayay.
Suggestions: Are you making a cheese platter for your next party? I wouldn’t. No one will ever care as much as you want them to. But if you insist on having a cheese platter, make sure you include a nice aged Gouda, the hard kind that tastes really good, and cut it into cubes. Label all the other cheeses like normal but label the Gouda “mystery cheese” Your guests will say, “Oh my goodness! What is THIS? It tastes like CANDY!”
And that’s when you say, “It’s called How-da. It’s pronounced How-da, not Goo-da. It’s How-da.” You have to tell them or else they’ll never know.
Description: I’ll never forget the first time I ever tried baked brie with fig jam. Yummerz!© It was around 2002, my first industry party, at Gary Pizzoli’s mansion as a matter of fact. I overheard Stupid Tim talking about it at work and well, he had to invite me. Gary had cheese plates in every room, all arranged according to theme. My first move was for the Aged Cheddar room but it was packed. There was a line AND a cover to get into the Gruyere room next door, so I ventured across the hall into a room that was completely unoccupied. Thanks to foolish geopolitics at the time, Brie was experiencing a lull in popularity, which meant I had the Brie room all to myself for the rest of the night. Heh heh heh, suckers (warmongers!)
Suggestion: Well, besides baking it with fig jam, I guess you could use it like butter, except not to cook with, although I haven’t tried it. You know what, let me go try it real quick.
Okay that was a really dumb idea. Don’t swap out butter for brie, people! Don’t plan a whole dinner based on the idea of using brie instead of butter without even testing it first. Don’t hinge your entire relationship on this one big special dinner coming out perfectly or else. Just eat it! Slather it on a fresh baguette, there’s an easy one. Hey, you could even add brie and sliced apple to your next ham sandwich if you’re doing alright for yourself! Feeling down? Eat it like a stack of pancakes, maple syrup and all. Just…don’t use it like butter.
Description: There are other cheeses. There’s goat cheese, sheep’s milk cheese, there’s buffalo, yak cheese, ox’s milk cheese. As a matter of fact, all of the cheeses I listed above can even be made with any kind of milk you want. Yes, there is such a thing as sheep’s milk blue cheese, it’s called Roquefort. Oops! Did that blow your mind? Well try this one on: Sheep piss wildly when milked because the unnatural act being performed fills them with existential dread. Now, what were you saying? About Roquefort? It is delicious, isn’t it?
Suggestion: Perhaps you’re sitting there reading this cheese guide and asking yourself, “what the hell is going on? I just need some quick info about cheese for a party idea!” Well maybe you need more than that, hm? Maybe this cheese plate you’re planning carries too much weight. Stop trying to impress people with borrowed knowledge, girl! If these people wanted esoteric cheese and meat presentations, they can learn how to do that themselves. And some folks don’t even like cheese! You know what guests never say no to? Popcorn. Popcorn is the perfect snack. So uncomplicated. You can even sprinkle cheese on it but then expect your guests to be all like “do you have a napkin?” Ugh.
I’m sorry. I’m just not feeling cheese today.
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