An Autobiography of Cheese: From Cheese Hater to Cheese Club Member
This post was inspired by The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison, who traveled to France in search of its artisanal cheeses. Join From Left to Write on August 22 as we discuss The Whole Fromage. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review. The From Left to Write posts are meant to be musings on the book rather than reviews.
When I was a kid, I wouldn’t touch cheese. The smell, the texture, nothing about cheese appealed to my finicky tastes. As I grew into a teenager and discovered the glories of sharing pizza with friends, I amended my cheese policy to allow for cheese that was melted.
In my memorable, but brief, foray into the world of Atkins dieting as a senior in high school, I melted the required cheese meal on aluminum foil in the oven and ate it with a fork right off the foil. This was in the days before microwaves. That diet attempt ended disastrously, three days later, with a near-faint during volleyball practice and was my last no-carb experiment.
In college, I finally learned to like a little cheese — mostly at the wine and cheese receptions that made us all feel so adult and daring. Probably the illicit wine consumed by this underage undergraduate contributed greatly to my open mind about cheese. Also, free food, even if it’s cheese, was always appreciated. I discovered that Havarti cubes weren’t half bad and combined with a few crackers and some grapes it could substitute as a cost-free meal.
My next leap in cheese appreciation came when I married a cheese lover. His favorite snack was extra sharp cheddar. At first, it was just too much for me, but I tried it melted on things, just as I did in high school, and I gradually got used to it.
After an amazing experience during Bastille Day a couple of years ago, Bastille Day, Weekend Cooking Part 1, orchestrated by our nephew, the wine distributor, and his fromager friend at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread, and Wine in Chicago, we joined the Cheese of the Month Club at Pastoral. Since then, we’ve tasted and enjoyed many cheeses. I still don’t like blue ones — I seem to be unusually sensitive to moldy flavors. I wonder if it has anything to do with my mold allergy. Before this experience, I was sure that I didn’t like stinky cheeses, but it turns out I like them fine as long as the stink isn’t mold.
The culmination of my cheese adventures and the reason I wanted to read The Whole Fromage was our trip to France this spring. It’s too bad I hadn’t read this book before we went since I would have been a much more knowledgeable consumer of cheese. As it was, I found myself continually amazed at how good and affordable the cheese was even at receptions and from quick shops. In Paris, we wore ourselves out during the day and often had bread, wine, and cheese along with some fruit or a salad from the Monoprix as our supper in the hotel room. It’s a habit that we’re continuing at home. As soon as our cheese of the month arrives, I plan a simple supper around it.
The next time we go to France (there will surely be a next time), I will be prepared to make more sophisticated and deliberate choices about cheese. What a long way to come from my cheese-hating childhood.
This is my first book post for the Back to School Reading Challenge. Have you learned anything from books recently? Join our challenge!
I will link this post, on Saturday, to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.
For the From Left to Write book club folks, Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads. Any given week, the participating bloggers feature recipes, cookbook reviews, restaurant reports, food scenes from books, and other creative culinary adventures.
For Weekend Cooking folks, the From Left to Write book club offers review copies of books once or twice a month. Rather than reviews, the book club members write posts inspired by the book. It seems like two or three times a year the books are food-related. Here are details about how to join us: Join the Book Club
I will also link this post to the Monday event, Dreaming of France, at An Accidental Blog.
The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison is my 11th book for the Books on France challenge.
If you’re interested in my posts about my trip to France, with lots of photos, I compiled them here: Last Day in France.
Affiliate link to support the From Left to Write Book Club: The Whole Fromage at Amazon.
We love cheese around here. So glad you found a way to enjoy it as well. My husband and I are taking a trip soon and I plan on getting some lovely cheeses from a shop I know in the area. I haven’t blogged much about the trip but the date is approaching. For now, I’m too excited to put it into words.
I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip when you’re ready to talk about it!
I love this post! I adore cheese and have been dying to read this book. I’m afraid to do it until after my pregnancy is over though (there are a lot of cheeses you’re not supposed to eat while pregnant…this book would be too tempting right now!!). 🙂 I’m glad you’ve stepped happily into the wild world of cheese!
I still can’t bring myself to try the bleu cheeses either. One day?
I would have a very hard time if I developed a lactose intolerance, not because I’m a milk drinker, but because I’ve always loved cheese. That being said, my appreciation is far from sophisticated. Maybe The Whole Fromage can help me out.
I enjoyed reading your post… and have the same recollections of those collegiate wine and cheese receptions! This book is in my tbr pile.
I love cheese (especially the moldy blue ones)! I’ll have to check this book out and give it a read soon.
Great post! Reminds me- just recently I was at a cheese store on the village with a friend… When he asked me what kind of cheese I liked (they were giving samples if pretty much anything) I genuinely said, Cheddar? Upon which he mercilessly teased me about having the palate of a 7 year old
Um that should have said,
Great post! Reminds me- just recently I was at a cheese store in the village with a friend… When he asked me what kind of cheese I liked (they were giving samples of pretty much anything) I tentatively said, Cheddar? Upon which he mercilessly teased me about having the palate of a 7 year old
Joy, I can’t imagine not liking cheese. Even my finicky 17-year-old will cut slices of stinky brie and eat it. Thanks for letting me know about this fun post.
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That sounds almost exactly like me. I grew up hating cheese and would only eat melted cheese like on pizza. Even sandwiches, I ate without cheese. Few years back, I started eating a little cheese at a time and now, I am fully in love with this yummy thing. How is that even possible?
Pastoral is a great store! Near me, in Oak Park, we also have an amazing cheese market called Marion St Cheese Market. Those kind of stores can make converts out of cheese haters.
You know, I’ve wondered about the mold allergy connection, too. I definitely seem to be more sensitive to the moldy cheeses and can only take them in small portions. But then again, they also seem to be the stronger tasting (and smelling) varieties, so I guess a little goes a long way.
Congrats on broadening your horizons and coming so far with cheese!
I also hated cheese as a child, would eat only the mildest cheese melted. I love it now, as do both my kids.
My love affair with cheese is lifelong. I used to belong to a cheese club — years ago. Now you’re making me wish I still did. I may have to do some research.
Joy, when we go to France we have soft rolls with cheese and ham for breakfast – would never do that at home but it seems so right in France. Cheers
I love books about food lovers, so I think this sounds great. I hope you had an amazing time in France!
Cheese is one of my weaknesses, and I am lucky to live in NYC where there are so many great gourmet cheese shops.
oh yes, I do love my cheese…
Really enjoyed this post! I’ve always liked cheese, not too keen on the stinky ones but it does make a nice light meal.
My Nana never liked cheese and I found that incredible. We have always had new cheeses to try and I love it.
This book has been on my to read list for a bit. Looking forward to it.
I have always loved cheese, but would like to learn how to prepare a Parisian cheese tray for my own wine and cheese pairings. This book sounds like the perfect resource.
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Joy, Thanks for playing along today. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme
Such an intriguing post. I’ve never had any problem with cheese, and my son is even more in love with cheese- when he was younger he wanted to be a dairytarian and only eat cheese and yoghurt. I’m so glad that you’ve come around to the world of cheese, there is so much to discover. I used to belong to a monthly cheese club too for a few years- I miss it actually. We ate so much amazing cheese on our recent French holiday, The Whole Fromage will have to make it onto my TBR.
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What a delightful post – I loved reading about your journey with cheese. I personally love blue cheese, but I can completely get that it might be one hurdle you just can’t overcome (I think many people feel this way about goats cheese) – and very interesting to ponder the possible link between that an your mold allergy.
I love the way that in France a bottle of wine, a chunk of cheese, a baguette and a bit of fruit makes for a very delicious and inexpensive meal – where I live you’d be looking at an outlay of about $50 for such a feast (especially if it was French cheese), so definitely not a frugal repast.
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