Cheddar Fromage

Cheddar "Fromage"

I have written a couple of times about how I have been having trouble finding some good cheese. It’s all very confusing because there are so many different varieties, but to my untrained eye they all appear the same! In the US we have easy names and we use food coloring and dyes to color our cheese so that we can differentiate, but here it’s “au natural,” and the names don’t make much sense to me.

I went grocery shopping with my [Swiss] roommate yesterday and gained some insight into the way the Swiss feel about cheese (I suppose it’s a bit of a generalization to use my roommate to represent the whole of Switzerland, but I’m gonna go with it).

First of all, there are two large categories of cheese here: there is real cheese, and there is fake cheese. When my roommate first referred to some cheese I had bought as “fake,” I thought I had made a terrible mistake. However, I realize now that “fake” simply means that the cheese has been reformed; in other words, it’s not part of an original wheel or block of cheese. I assured her that much of our cheese in the US is “fake” according to her standards, so I was not bothered much by this.

“Real” cheese, as you may have guessed, is cheese that has been cut from a wheel or block. It normally has paper, or what I would call a “rind” around at least one edge. Most of the harder cheeses have paper, and the softer cheeses have a slightly lighter colored “rind” of more pungent, smelly cheese around the edges (like brie). This is REAL cheese. It is generally stronger smelling, with strange names, and holes, and sometimes spots of discoloration. To be honest, I’m pretty intimidated by it.

As I may have mentioned before, I have been longing for some cheddar cheese. I never thought I would miss it so much. After searching and searching with no success, I finally decided to ask my roommate. To my dismay, she had no idea what I was talking about, so I decided to see if I could find it in my French/English dictionary. It was there, and in fact, it was the exact same word in French. Puzzled, I went back to tell my roommate; making a joke I said, “well, it’s the same word in French, but you probably just say ‘sheddar’ instead of ‘cheddar’!” Laughing smugly to myself, I looked up to see the recognition on her face. Indeed, this was the case. Of course, I should have known.

This was slightly discouraging to me, because now I knew that I had not simply missed it because it was called something different in French. While shopping yesterday, I decided to look one more time. This store had a very large variety of cheeses, and a deli as well, to get even fresher cheese. After looking around a bit, I decided to ask the lady behind the counter as a last ditch effort. “Ah! Oui!” Her eyes brightened as she held up one finger. She disappeared behind the big glass counter. I peered over to see her rummaging behind the rest of the cheese. She reappeared a few seconds later with a large, unopened block of CHEDDAR CHEESE! I half expected her to blow the dust off the top or cut some mold off the edges, but I was so happy to see my long lost friend that I didn’t really care. It was cheddar cheese. Not yellow. Not reformed, fake cheese. It was REAL cheddar cheese. I didn’t even look at the price, I purchased 300g.

Yesterday I ate a grilled cheese sandwich with my new cheddar cheese, and today I shredded some of the cheddar cheese and made tacos! I’m so happy!