My house…my cheese!!
We are all slaves , to a certain degree, of our customs. It’s normal that the more we travel we will always have that sporadic nostalgic moment which transcends common sense and overcomes every pore of our body. A Strong feeling and Desire to return to the Simplicity of Childhood and it’s Humble Charms. Strangely, what I have seen is that what people tend to miss the most takes form in food, especially in cheese.
Because of my diverse background with a Scottish mother and an Italian father and a globetrotting childhood I did not have a particular attachment to a specific cheese. However my tastes towards cheese did lean towards the less salty variety. Perhaps this detachment towards cheese makes me realizes that most of the places where I have gone , people’s eyes overflow with tears when they bring up the topic of their Beloved cheese. All of them swear that Their Cheese is the Best Cheese.
In El Salvador, one of the most popular cheeses comes from a variety called “ Petacones” which is a hard brittle salty cheese which can be argued tactfully as “ an acquired taste”. In Ecuador, it was a less salty version. In Holland people are always boasting about their Gouda. In Italy, it was Parmesan and Mozzarella Cheese. If you go to France there are more than 300 varieties of cheese which vary from each region and some might look deceptively bland while others are overwhelmingly Strong aptly named “ stinky cheeses”.
All of these cheeses are so diverse in flavor, type and color that it absolutely confirms the Diversity of tastes that our planet has. The funny thing is, to all of these people, they all swear that their cheese is the best.
Based on these simple criteria of how people grew up, and the tastes they acquired people categorize something as “ good cheese” and “ bad cheese” however our perspective is so diverse that it seems almost simplistic in trying to label things this way.
It never ceases to amaze me , when people are deprived of their Cheese , the creative lengths they go to get their Cheese. When people are so tinged with nostalgia , they will pay exorbitant amounts of Money to even get a nibble of that Cheese. Food has such a tactile response to memory, a trigger to transport us to that exact moment we first tried it. People are willing to pay an arm and a leg to obtain even a little nibble of their mythical cheese. Finding this cheese, searching for it like a hungry Explorer desperately seeking a species that is in danger of becoming extinct.
I had a Salvadoran friend who made me lug four pounds of her Cheese when I went to visit her in Boston. She told me ( After a long pause while she savored every bite of her exquisite cheese) “ I don’t like buying cheese in Boston, because none of them compares to Salvadoran cheese”
This amazed me for if there was one thing in the United States that was not lacking was the variety of Choice. If you search enough you would be able to find anything… perhaps not the same exact cheese but at least something similar.
Throughout my travels I have been able to observe similar reactions, and always concerning cheese. Why cheese? Is it because cheese is an unconscious association with mother’s milk? Or perhaps it is simply that it is one of the few foods which can be moulded to the particular taste of the country they are in. What would each cheese say about the personality of each unique culture? Someone who studied gastronomy could perhaps solve this enigma, however it is a fascinating topic.
I have come to realize that there is a simple reason why we search for our cheese. It is because when we find ourselves in a Foreign Land, filled with Foreign things where we ourselves are Foreign, we want to have that cheese which reminds us of the home we left behind. The cheese that understands us.
However, this nostalgic reaction saddens me a little as I think of how people might deprive themselves in trying all those new flavors that the new country has to offer. A lot of people I know see the New Cheese with suspicion, as if they are being unfaithful to their loyal husband. Yet I think this is mainly a gestalt switch dilemma. What people need to know is that Their Cheese will always be waiting for them. The New Cheese Orly offers the possibility of opening yourself up to different tastes and perspective, but New Cheese would never replace Old Cheese.
It is amazing how small things like this can become a comfort , a sense of home. It is with this, you realize that the spirit and memory and taste are intricately linked.