Friday, December 28, 2007

Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

From my Alma Mater, dear old Cornell University.

The Cornell Daily Sun

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

By Behzad Varamini

Created Oct 29 2007

Growing up in Wisconsin, cheese is not a choice, it’s a lifestyle. Dairy is not a decision, it’s a religion. Milk is not a maybe, it’s mandatory.

California, I love you guys. You have beaches, Hollywood, great food and The Price is Right. But please, once and for all, fully accept that Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland. We have nothing else. Or, maybe take America’s Dairyland, but give us The Price is Right. And Arnold.

Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland. Though there may be more cows in California, one has to be really smart and scientific and realize that Wisconsin has a much higher cow:person ratio. That’s how I got into Cornell — less because of Wisconsin’s cow:person ratio, more because I am really smart and scientific.

Plus, California is warm, diverse and trendy, so it’s easy to be from California. Wisconsin is cold, homogeneous and flannel. Even harder is leaving Wisconsin, because when you do, really weird things start happening.

I began to quickly notice some eerie changes when I moved to Pennsylvania with my family a few years ago.

First, my own body. Though the milk in Pennsylvania didn’t taste much different, my body began to reject it with violent ferocity. Cheese and ice cream induced the same symptoms. I became lactose intolerant, something I thought only happened to Asians. I even started liking bubble tea and Korean dramas.

Next, the persecution. First, the stares: it was hard to go anywhere without people glaring at my cheesehead. Then, the questions: “Why are you wearing that foam hat in the shape of a giant cheese wedge on your head?” “Sir, you know you’ll have to take that off for airport security?”

And finally, the misunderstandings. For weeks I searched grocery stores, restaurants and bars for cheese curds so I could relive my past. No one understood me. It’s like I was speaking another language.

What are cheese curds? Heaven in your mouth. Cheese curds are fresh, young cheddar cheese in its natural, random shape before being processed into blocks and aged into store-bought cheese. They have a very small window of eatability and are rarely heard of outside of Wisconsin. They are served alone, with dipping sauce or deep fried. When you bite into one, they make a characteristic “squeak” sound; yes, squeaky-cheese! I know you want some.

Oh, how I long for the days of lactose tolerance, cheesehead freedom and squeaky deep-fried cheese. Unfortunately, to this day, the persecution against cheese-enthusiasts is still rampant.

Take, for instance, a Southern California couple who are facing criminal charges for allegedly trying to sell homemade cheese in an open-air market. 375 pounds of unlicensed cheeses were seized and the couple was arrested on felony cheese-making charges.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture claims that homemade cheese is a serious threat to public health.

What the California Department of Food and Agriculture really means is that homemade cheese is a serious threat to the California cheesemaking industry because it tastes so good! I say give this couple a one-way ticket to Wisconsin — save them from California, where non-discerning taste buds can hardly tell apart Gorgonzola cheese from Brie Manoir.

These folks were simply trying to stand up for their inalienable right to fresh homemade cheese, unprocessed and unaged, soft, and squeaky.

And that’s what people don’t understand. Us cheeseheads, we’re just like you. We want to live comfortable lives. We want our kids to go to the best schools. We put our pants on one leg at a time, over our long underwear.

We’re just a little misunderstood. So grab an udder. Hug a cow. Tell a cheesy joke. Tolerate lactose. And pass the cheese. Just try not to cut it, at least not in public.

Behzad Varamini is a graduate student in Nutritional Sciences. He can be contacted at Gain Through Loss appears alternate Tuesdays.

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