A Brief History of Cheese: Tracing the Enduring Allure and Journey of This Ancient Epicurean Delight

Some individuals opine that cheese epitomizes the pinnacle manifestation of milk, a timeless incarnation thereof. I posit that for most, the introduction to cheese harks back to the animated escapades of “Tom and Jerry,” a cherished childhood indulgence. In those episodes, Jerry and Tom waged fierce battles over a wedge of yellow cheese replete with sizable cavities. To Jerry, it was akin to life itself, evoking an unwavering devotion that bordered on the amorous. Thus, what is the nomenclature for such a beguiling cheese, adorned with expansive perforations?

The progenitor of this aperture-laden cheese is none other than the renowned Emmentalkse, originating from the Emmentalkse region nestled within the canton of Bern in central Switzerland. It is occasionally referred to as “Swiss cheese” for brevity’s sake. This firm cheese, crafted from unpasteurized raw milk, boasts a golden hue and circular apertures that have come to epitomize the quintessential image of cheese.

Cheese represents a concentrated, enduring, and more nuanced iteration of dairy. Birthed from the amalgamation of milk, rennet, salt, and time, cheese undergoes a journey from inception to maturation and eventual aging. Variances in origin, composition, humidity, production methodology, and other factors contribute to the rich tapestry of cheese varieties.

While certain cheeses may exude an illusion of gentility, prolonged exposure often reveals their inherent potency. Mold-fermented cheeses impart a saline, mineral-laden flavor profile. Much like the divisive durian fruit, discovering the palate for such cheeses proves captivating and enrapturing to aficionados.

In “A Brief History of Cheese,” diverse facets of the cheese realm, spanning history, production methodologies, varietals, and sensory experiences, are explored. This literary journey enables readers to delve deeper into the world of cheese, fostering a heightened appreciation and understanding thereof. Upon perusal, one discovers a plethora of cheeses—ranging from the piquant blue cheese to the robust Parmigiano-Reggiano, the velvety Lebrochon, and the savory Pecorino Romano—each with its distinct texture and flavor profile, reflecting diverse geographical origins.

Cheese, an ancient epicurean delight, has traversed the annals of human civilization. Giovanni Boccaccio vividly extolled the virtues of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in “The Decameron,” painting a whimsical tableau wherein houses and mountains fashioned from cheese serve as the backdrop for idyllic existence. Such is the antiquity of Parmigiano-Reggiano that its origins elude precise tracing.

References to Parmesan cheese abound even in ancient texts, a testament to its enduring allure. Notably, Pope Julius II once bestowed upon King Henry VIII of England a princely gift of 100 rounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, elevating cheese to the status of a regal indulgence. In the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666, British statesman Samuel Pepys and his compatriots safeguarded their most cherished possessions, including wine and Parmesan cheese, by burying them underground, as recounted in Pepys’ diary.

“A Brief History of Cheese” elucidates the earliest cheese-making endeavors, the opulence of ancient Roman cheese, and the medieval genesis of cheese selection criteria. These narratives, replete with intrigue and culinary heritage, impart a newfound appreciation for the venerable cheese. Once acquainted with its unique allure, one inevitably succumbs to its charms, embracing it as an indispensable epicurean delight akin to the French tradition. Henceforth, cheese becomes a captivating muse, ensnaring hearts and palates alike in its irresistible embrace.