Monday, September 7, 2009

Say Cheese (in which my husband blogs)

Me: You haven't done a guest post for me in a long time.
Husband: You're right.
Me: You should do one.
Husband: Okay. I'm going to write about cheese.
Me: Is this just an excuse to spend a couple of hours on Wikipedia and have something to chalk it up to?
Husband: Yes.
Me: Okay.

I present: Kenny.

It was my first morning in the city of Cuautla, Morelos. I sat at the breakfast table with my new family. Well, the people who would be my family while I was studying in Mexico for the next 5 weeks.

"Do you like it?" the mother asked.

"Yes, thank you." I said. It definitely was not the best quesadilla I've ever had, but then again it was much better then having breakfast soup made of cow stomach and pig feet (yeah, that's right, I'm talking about YOU, MENUDO!!!).

"I wanted to make you feel at home, so I made it with American Cheese," she said with a proud smile.

Oh, boy.

"American" cheese.

American Cheese, how did you ever become our cheese ambassador to the world?!? Maybe we don't have a lot of native born cheeses...but you?!? Really?!? It just makes me cry a little inside, when I realize what every other nation is thinking (and you can read the following in your mind with any sort of accent: French, Russian, Middle Eastern, it all works): "America, maybe you have a huge military and the biggest economy in the known universe. Maybe you invented a lot of cool stuff and you put a man on the moon. And maybe your music and movies invade every crevice of our cultures, but you know what?!?...Your cheese is a joke! That's right! Ha-ha-ha on your American Cheese!!!"

I mean what other country would be so audacious to name a cheese after themselves? (The Swiss, you say? Well, actually WE named it "Swiss Cheese"...Emmental is the more proper name.)

So that is why I'd like to propose a new "American Cheese". Now unfortunately, we Americans came a little late to the cheese game. Cheese production predates recorded history and our current cheese making process has not changed much since Roman times. In fact, our native cheeses are all tend to be variations on a few established northern European traditions. For example, Maytag Blue Cheese came about because the climate in the US did not allow for the making of any of the traditional blue cheeses like Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Stilton. A whole new (patented) process had to be invented (at Iowa State University) and now the Maytag family (as in Maytag appliances) brings us the dominant blue cheese in America.1

Even though Maytag Blue Cheese is one of "ours", it is such an acquired (or perhaps just esoteric) taste, that despite my love of it on a medium rare filet mignon at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, I can't really seriously consider it for the new "American Cheese". That, and the fact that it is sometimes spelled "bleu cheese", just doesn't seem very American.

Another "American Cheese" which is out of the running from the start is Velveeta. That's right I'm a cheese snob. Sorry, Velveeta-eaters.

Here are a couple for consideration:

Philadelphia Cream Cheese - believe it or not, it is OURS! It was the result of a New York dairyman trying to create a batch of Neufchatel. The only problem I have with giving it the title of America's cheese, is that it cannot really stand on its own, it has to be eaten ON something else. And that seems to defy America's independent spirit.

Monterey Jack (or just Jack Cheese) - This one comes from the great state of California (yeah, that's MY state! Woo-hoo!). But it may have been invented when California was still part of I'm not sure it should count.

Colby (and Colby Jack) - A similar process to Jack, but from Wisconsin. The problem here is that I just never hear people order it by name..."Can I have a slice of Colby on that sandwich?". It's more of a tag-along on a cheese variety plate. Americans are leaders, not tag-along-ers!

Muenster Cheese - This one is ours too, except we gave it a German sounding name, so that kind of disqualifies it. Though "hamburger" is very German sounding too when you think about it...

[Mmmm, now I'm thinking about hamburgers...]

OK, I'm back.

So after much consideration, I have made my decision. The new "American Cheese" will be...

drum roll please...

Pepper Jack!

That's right a spicy variation on Monterey Jack (which was invented on what is currently American soil). Now maybe it's a little West-centric, and maybe no one outside of California eats it, but we eat it here all the time. People ask for it by name when there are making sandwiches. It pretty much comes standard on the cheese cube trays. Fast food restaurants use it to sell their latest burger, quesadilla, etc. I mean what better than "smooth and spicy" to represent America and its greatness.

Instead of other counties laughing at us, here will be the new American Cheese Dialog:

Foreign Country: What is this?
America: It's American Cheese, partner.
Foreign Country: Mmmm...smooth and subtle...but my mouth, it burns.
America: Dang right your mouth is burning! And this is us being hospitable...just step out of line and see what happens...

So there you go. Monterrey Jack, you are now our proper, fully-of-personality, not-at-all-embarrassing cheese ambassador to the world!

And now I'm off to make myself a quesadilla with some American Cheese [wink].

1 OK, on the subject of Bleu Cheese, I have to make a quick digression here. Every time (and I mean EVERY TIME) we go out to a restaurant with my parents (and this has been the case since I was old enough to comprehend the English language) and my dad orders a salad, it turns into the following, never varying, ritual:

Dad: I'll have a salad.
Server: What kind of dressing would you like?
Dad: I'll have Roquefort dressing.
Server: I'm sorry, we don't have Roquefort, but we do have Bleu Cheese.
Dad: That's fine.

My question for my dad is this. "Dad, in the 40 years that I've been going to restaurants with you, they NEVER have Roquefort Why don't you just ask for Blue Cheese from the beginning since that's what you are going to end up with anyway?!?"

But I don't say this. Perhaps, like him, I've just grown so accustom to the ritual.


Luisa Perkins said...

Kenny = awesome.

We're just back from France, so I have cheese on the brain. Now I want some.

Mmmmm, Ruth's Chris.

Heather of the EO said...

You two are definitely a perfect match. (I felt like I was reading Melanie's wise and witty words)

LOVED this post, Kenny. Hilarity.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

As soon as you started this, I thought to myself, "THe American cheese should be Pepper Jack."

Great minds think alike. (And in your case, great minds got married.)

Don said...

I love the post, but I think you missed the one endearing quality of American cheese that gives it the appearance of cool, despite the nasty taste and slimy texture:

The individually-wrapped single.

Never mind the waste and excess involved in wrapping every single slice of cheese in its own protective sleeve of petroleum-based film.

It's that zip-zip-zip process of opening a slice that makes American cheese awesome.

Give that Pepper Jack some individual wrapping, and I'm with you all the way!

Debbie said...

Oh, truer words were never written. I hate American Cheese. Even my kids can't stand it. It is an embarrassment.. We like to call it "plastic cheese".

Lara said...


I have to break up with cheese soon. This post did not help.

Becca said...

Um, we love cheese here. My 5-year-old recently said to me "Mom, can we go to Costco soon? We can't get good Gruyere in this town."

Kristina P. said...

I love Kenny!

And I love blue cheese. Love it. But I had a friend who hated blue cheese, but loved Gorgonzola. When I explained that Gorgonzola was a blue cheese, she got really mad and said that they weren't the same at all.

Linda said...

Colby Jack cheese in WI is ordered as "Co-Jack".
Being from the great cheese state this I know!
I am a true bleu cheese head!

Linda said...

Colby Jack cheese in WI is ordered as "Co-Jack".
Being from the great cheese state this I know!
I am a true bleu cheese head!

Migillicutty said...

I was about halfway through this post when I realized how absurd it is to be talking about cheese. Say that word over and over. ChEEEz. ChEEEEEEEz. It's funny!
I only eat cheddar.

April said...

My sister once made me and my then boyfriend lasagna, with American Cheese. We ate it to be polite. I have not eaten a slice of American Cheese since. That was over 24 years ago.

Jami said...

Excellent. Although I hate pepper jack, I applaud your choice.

L.T. Elliot said...

Dude, he's an awesome guest-poster. I have to sadly admit that I don't care for cheese. *cringe*

Kimberly said...

Fab post, Kenny. And I'm now 1) Craving me some Pepper Jack and 2) nursing a sudden curiousity about the cheese's of my homeland - is there a Canadian cheese?

charrette said...

I love it when Kenny posts. Partly because the very first post I read on your blog was a post from Kenny. And then I instantly loved the both of you.

"American Cheese" is pure plastic. No wonder we say cheesy about everything tacky.

Pepper Jack is a great choice! Let's vote...

Kazzy said...

My husband has threatened divorce if he ever finds American cheese in the fridge. I love PJ though!

earlfam said...

We love you, Kenny!

Sarah's going to do a post now on Almonds. There isn't as much to say about almonds as there is about cheese but she's only 12 and can't spend the ENTIRE day on wikipedia