My brother brings out a plate of cheese for us to munch on as we chat about life.
"I have some really great cheese memories, you know," I say to him.
He smiles, "Cheese memories? You have cheese memories?"
Yes, I have cheese memories. Doesn't everyone?
My earliest cheese memory is when I was about 5 or 6. My mother was going through the conversion process with an older Jehovah's Witness couple. After every Bible study session, the older woman would bring out apple pie and a plate of cheddar cheese. I wasn't that interested in the apple pie but inevitably finished every slice of cheese on the plate and affectionately became known as "the mouse".
My mother made us Kraft Dinner regularly. That atomic orange, zesty cheese still reminds me of home. And then there was celery sticks with Cheez Whiz. Yet another ungodly version of cheese burned into my memory.
I remember the day Havarti entered my life. I was invited over to Sandra's house. Sandra was a Christadelphian, a religious sect quite similar to Jehovah's Witnesses, so I would often hang out with her during school celebrations that went against our shared beliefs. This particular day was my first time being at Sandra's place for lunch. Her mom made us grilled cheese, but with Havarti! Oh my. I was forever changed. Havarti has since become my preferred grilled cheese of choice, along with a little avocado and jalapeno pepper. Yumminess.
And then, of course, no discussion of cheese memories would be complete without the play of my Italian heritage. My paternal grandparents had us over every week for dinner, and there I was exposed to all manner of cheezy goodness. Scamorza, Provolone, Parmagianno, Romano, Caciocavallo, Ricotta, Bocconcini; they dance like sugar plum fairies across the tapestry of my childhood. I remember great big balls of cheese hanging in my grandparents cold room and my grandfather cutting one down for a meal and then placing it on the dinner table along with a knife and we just dug in whenever we wanted a slice. I like this way of eating. I wish we could eat like this all the time. Communal, simple, whole food eating.
The strangest cheese I've ever encountered? There is an Italian cheese called Casu Marzu, meaning "rotten cheese", so named because it is fermented by live insect larvae. Yes, that's right. There are live little maggots swimming in the cheese. Needless to say, I didn't try this one. But I watched as my grandfather savored every last bit of it, wormies and all.
My current cheese obsession is Brie. I first encountered it at a little French bistro a few years back, on a baguette with ham and dijon alongside. I like to eat it straight up, although my cousin does this amazing baked Brie with maple syrup and almond slices that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
I pity those who are lactose intolerant. How can one possibly live a balanced existence without cheese?