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Release date: 12/28/2004.
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"I was blown up while we were eating cheese."
--Frederick Henry after Caporetto (Kobarid) in Hemingway's Farewell to Arms"

"Richard Nixon...committed unspeakable acts with cottage cheese."
--Jay Jacobs

"A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk's leap toward immortality."
--Clifton Fadiman

"How can one conceive of a one-party system in a country that has over 200 varieties of cheese?
--Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)

Cheese: the adult form of milk
--Richard Condon, A Talent for Living, 1961

"Cheese, that the table's closing rites denie/And bids me with the unwilling chaplain rise."
--John Gay, Trivia, Book II, l. 255

"As after cheese, nothing to be expected."
--Thomas Fuller, Church History, Book VI, 5

"The great Norman cheeses were served as well: Camembert, Pont l'Eveque, and the stinky Livarot. But my father warned: 'Not for Mademoiselle Simone, the strong cheeses.' He thought young girls shouldn't be allowed to pollute their mouths with smelly odors."
--Simone Beck

"Much like a cheese, consumes itself to the very paring"
--Parolles in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, Act I, Scene 1

"My cheese, my digestion"
--Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, II, 3, 44

"Digestive cheese"
--Ben Jonson, Epigram 101

"Cheese is probably the friendliest of foods. It endears itself to everything and never tires of showing off to great advantage. Any liquor or, I may say, any potable or any edible loves to be seen in the company of cheese. Naturally, some nationalities choose one type of companion and some another, but you very seldom find clashes of temperament in passing."
--James Beard

"Never commit yourself to a cheese without having first examined it."
--T.S. Eliot

"A poet's hope: to be, like some valley cheese, local, but prized elsewhere
--W.H. Auden in "Shorts II"

"Rats! They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats"

--Robert Browing in The Pied Piper of Hamelin

"O! he's as tedious As a tired horse, a railing wife; Worse than a smoky house. I had rather live With cheese and garlic in a windmill, far, Than feed on cates and have him talk to me In any summer-house in Christendom."
--Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part 1

"My folk have wedded me
Across heaven's span,
Into a far country,
To a Turkish Khan.
A black tent is our hall,
Wth felt for party wall:
Flesh is our nutriment,
And cheese for condiment.
So homesick here -- would I
From this lothly band
Like the Brown Swan might fly
To my native land!

--Liu Hsi-Chun's "Lamentation" (c. 100 BCE), poignantly summing up the bitterness of dynastic sacrifice (trans. J.A. Turner).

"Many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese--toasted, mostly"
--Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island, Ben Gunn speaking

"as I was crawling through the holes in a swiss cheese the other day it occurred to me to wonder what a swiss cheese would think if a swiss cheese could think and after cogitating for some time I said to myself if a swiss cheese could think it would think that a swiss cheese was the most important thing in the world just as everything that can think at all does think about itself."
--Don Marquis in archygrams

"In baiting a mouse-trap with cheese, always leave room for the mouse"
--Saki, in The Infernal Parliament

"But I, when I undress me Each night, upon my knees, Will ask the Lord to bless me, With apple pie and cheese."
--Eugene Field in "Apple Pie and Cheese"

Click HERE to read how a Swiss giant, huntsman, and golden youth made magic cheese from a poor herdsman's milk.

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According to British author T. A. Layton (1957), cheese was invented by accident:

There was a merchant from Arabia, so the story goes, way back in the mists of history, who put his day's supply of milk into a pouch made of a sheep's stomach. He hoisted himself upon his camel and clip-clopped over the desert. The beast's ambling movement, the residual rennet of the sheep-stomach pouch, and the hot sun did the rest. That evening, the first drink of whey quenched the nomad's thirst--and his hunger was satisfied by the curd. Cheese was born.

And make that birthing over 5000 years ago.

Jesse the Bethlehemite, father of David, didn't realize he was sending his son to kill Goliath when he told David on that fateful day: "Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand" (1 Samuel, 17:17).

And how about Job? With his oxen as asses slain; his sheep, his camels, and his servants; his 7 sons and his 3 daughters all dead; himself afflicted with sores "from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head"--Job at last complained. After all, he apostrophized to God, "Didst thou not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese?" (Job 10:10).

Cheese was mankind's first and best fast food--and has come, over time, to be called the Food of the Gods.

For the purposes of soup, hard cheese is mostly and excellently used. But some decadently wonderful soups have been made with softer cheeses. And, after all, there's more to life than cheese IN soup. How about cheese on the side with crusty bread? Or cheese as a dessert AFTER a full meal of soup and other things?

For which reasons, we'll cover ALL of the best known natural cheeses here, classifying them by hardness and talking about some of them--because so many have wonderful stories behind them.

First a word on cheese in soups...from Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking...TREAT & HEAT GENTLY TO PREVENT GLOPPY MESSES!

"The behavior of cheese when heated depends primarily on its proteins. Beyond a certain temperature, the cassein will coagulate and separate from the fat and water into tough, stringy masses. Hard, well-ripened cheeses can tolerate higher temperatures than soft cheeses because more of their protein has been broken down into small, less easily coagulated fragments. The degraded protein of hard cheese is also more readily dispersed in a sauce. On the other hand, the more water and fat a cheese contains, the more easily it can be blended into a liquid that is composed mainly of these two materials. Once successfully made, a cheese sauce (or soup) must be treated gently; if over heated, the casein will separate into stringy or grainy masses, and the rest of the sauce will become thin and soupy."

Cheese--hard, semi-hard, & soft

Hard Cheese

Distinguished by its retaining 30% moisture, by being made from raw milk, and by being all bacteria ripened. It's taste and texture is dramatically shaped by the amount of time it is aged.

2-3 months aging:

  • Appitost
  • Nokkelost (Norwegian)
  • Kuminost
3-12 months aging:
  • American
  • Asiago (Italian table cheese--see also under 12-16 month aging)
  • Cheddars (see Danish Samsoe, English Leicester, British Caerphilly, French Cantal, American Coon, American Colby)
  • Edam (Dutch cheese, uncooked and pressed, with a natural rind and a yellow interior. The only cheese in the world that can hold a perfectly spherical shape)
  • Gjetost (The national cheese of Norway, meaning "goat" + "cheese," though it is now commonly made of cow's milk. Usually an acquired taste, it's caramel colored, sold in cubes, and its taste has been compared to sweet manure and tobacco)
  • Gruyere (Swiss cheese with nutty taste--smaller eyes than Emmentaler)
  • Jarlsberg (Norwedian swiss-type cheese with yellow rind, large eyes)
  • Provolone (Italian, a string cheese whose curd is heated in hot whey then kneaded and formed into its familiar corded and hanging salami and pear shapes)
  • Samsoe (Danish cheddar named after the island of Samsoe in the Kattegat--with a slightly sweet taste of nut kernels. Tybo is a variation of it.)
  • Sapsago (Swiss cheese also called Schabziger and Green cheese--spiced with clover and strong tasting--used almost exclusively for hard grating)
  • Swiss (see Emmenthaler, Appenzeller, Gruyere...)
12-16 months aging...or more:
  • Caciocavallo (Italian cheese with a thick brown rind and pale yellow interior-- flask- or bottle-shaped; also is sold as a table cheese when aged less)
  • Asiago (Italian hard grating cheese with black waxed rind)
  • Cheshire
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano (Italian)
  • Pecorino-Romano (Italian, made from ewe's milk)
  • Sardo (Italian--same as Pecorino, but made on the island of Sardinia; today it commonly mixes ewe's milk with cow's milk)
  • Sbrinz (Swiss hard cheese with practically no eyes that takes 3 years to cure. Probably the original caseus helveticus mentioned by Columella, Roman agriculturalist in 1 AD. It takes its name from the town of Brienz in the Bernese Oberland)


Generally poor for cooking purposes, these superb cheeses retain about 45% moisture and are ripened and brought to full flavor either through the action of mold (actually a penicillin mold) or by the action of bacteria.

Mold-ripened semi-hard cheeses

  • Bleu
  • Gorgonzola (Italian, it's blue veins from Penicillium Glaucum)
  • Roquefort (French--from ewe's milk)
  • Stilton (English)

Bacteria-ripened semi-hard cheese

  • Bel Paese (Italian)
  • Brick (an American original called "The married man's limburger")
  • Fontina (Italian--made from ewe's milk in the Aosta Valley in the Piedmont; it's process is similar to Gruyere and, likewise, it often has a few small round eyes)
  • Gammelost (Norwegian--a really potent cheese made from sour skim-milk in the counties of Hardanger and Sogu)
  • Gouda (Dutch uncooked and pressed cheese)
  • Havarti (aka Tilsit, it's a Danish cheese)
  • Monterey Jack (American, originally made on farms in Monterey County, California, around 1892. It's actually a cheddar without any coloring added)
  • Mozzarella (Italian, originally made from buffalo's milk, now commonly made from cow's milk)
  • Muenster
  • Port du Salud (French washed-rind Monastery-type cheese with a bright orange surface)

Soft Cheeses

Poor to cook with--they retain between 45-85% moisture. They include cheeses that are unripened, mold ripened, and bacteria ripened.

Unripened natural cheeses

  • Farmer cheese (many local varieties around the world, varying according to the milk used...and how much cream is removed from it)
  • Pot cheese (varies according to locale--usually sour, similar too but drier than Cottage cheese)
  • Neufchatel (French--sometimes lightly cured with a bloomy rind and custard -colored interior)
  • Primost
  • Petit Gervais (French version of American cream cheese--a double creme with a salty finish)
  • Ricotta (actually made from whey, not curds)

Unripened and enriched with cream

  • Cottage cheese

Unripened and held (pickled) in brine

  • Feta (commonly Greek, but many varieties from Bulgaria, Israel, and throughout the Middle East)

Mold ripened

  • Brie (French, right outside of Paris--and truly the queen of cheeses when at a perfect ripeness. Three famous versions from 3 adjacent towns: Melun, Coulommiers, and Meaux. It has a long and colorful history...)
  • Bucheron (French goat cheese--firm in texture and shaped into logs)
  • Cambozola (German)
  • Camembert (French)
  • Capricette (French goat cheese sold in small white ovals)
  • Chabichou (aka Cabichou, a French goat cheese sold in cones or cylinders with a bloomy white rind)
  • Domiati (Egyptian national cheese named after the small seaport on the Mediterranean--it's made from whole cow's or buffalo's milk and is salty, the salt being added right at the beginning of the process, before the rennet)
  • Montrachet (French goat cheese made in Burgundy--log shaped. Generally considered a milder goatiness. Sometimes its rind is dusted with vine wood ash, which makes it sharper)
  • Pont L'Eveque (French--surface ripened with a washed rind, it's a "monastery-type" cheese with a golden crust and a buttery interior; comes in little square boxes; revered by gourmets, it is an excellent dessert cheese)
  • Livarot (French)
  • Reblochon (French washed-rind cheese with a rusty exterior and a creamy interior--a mild dessert cheese)

Bacteria ripened

  • Limburger (originally Belgian, from Limbourg in Liege, but now associated with and produced in Germany)
  • Liederkranz (American "wreath of song" invented by a Belgian delicatessen owner in 1890s Ohio, trying to duplicate his native Limburger)
  • hand cheeses (e.g., Olomouc Hand Cheese from the Czech Republic)

Cheese Tales from Around the World


    A trusty and hard-working goatherd, who, as is the custom with goatherds of today also, ate his midday meal quite early in the morning, was often terribly hungry in the afternoon and until he brought the goats home late in the evening. One day a charitable dwarf presented thim with a small cheese, and charged him strictly never to eat it quite up. Now no one could have been happier than our goatherd, who could satisfy his hunger with the cheese aas often as he wanted to, for it had the wonderful property of growing to its original size between one meal and the next. But one day when the goatherd was more than usually hungry he forgot the dwarf's command and at the cheese right up. There was not the tiniest crumb of it left over, and so it remained, for as there was nothing of it left, there was also nothing to grow. For the rest of his days the goatherd had to go hungry, for he could never refrain from eating his midday meal early in the morning. But he was not the only one to suffer for his disobedience; the punishment was visited also upon all his fellow-goatherds, down to our own day. No goatherd has ever received such a gift of cheese again.

  • OF SAINT PETER, WHO CRIED "ROASTED CHEESE!" (from the not very "PC" 100 Merry Tales, or Shakespeare Jestbook of 1525):

    There is written among the old stories the tale of how God made Saint Peter the gatekeeper of heaven. The good Lord, soon after His passion, allowed many men to come into the kingdom of Heaven who had done little to deserve such honor.

    After that time, there was in Heaven a large group of Welshmen, whose babbling and boasting annoyed everybody else. God then told Saint Peter that He was weary of these Welshmen and would be glad to have them out of Heaven. Saint Peter replied, "Good Lord, I warrant you, it shall be done."

    Saint Peter then went outside the Heavenly Gates, and cried out in a loud voice, "Cause bobe," which means "roasted cheese," a delicacy of which Welshmen are very fond. They all ran out of Heaven at a brisk pace. When Saint Peter saw the whole group outside, he suddenly re-entered Heaven and locked the gates, thus keeping all the Welshmen outside.

    By this tale you may see that man is not wide to set his mind too much on delicacies or worldly pleasure, for in this way he may lose his celestial and eternal joy.