It’s Complicated

My relationship with Cheese that is.  For some people it’s chocolate, for others it’s bacon, for me it’s Cheese.

My first memory of Cheese?  It was 1976, the Bicentennial (I still have my 50¢ piece).  I was four years old and grocery shopping with my mother.  I remember walking quietly next to the cart (I was a pathologically obedient child) when I realized that we were in what I now know is the Dairy Section.

Jayne's Cheese Crackers Ingredients

“Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“Can we buy the white butter?”

“Why do you want to buy butter?”

“Not regular butter.  The white butter we had before.”

“Butter is white.”

“No!  It’s not white white!  I want the white white butter.”

Enter the stock boy: “What are you looking for sweetheart?”

“I. Want. The. WHITE.  BUTTER.”

“But, honey, butter is white.”

Needless to say, we didn’t get the elusive White Butter (we didn’t even get butter butter – we always got margarine because it’s cheaper).  I was, of course, trying to get my mother to buy me Cream Cheese.  Four years old and I could have cared less about candy bars, I wanted freaking Cream Cheese!

And so it began.  My lifelong love affair with Cheese.

1982 – Favorite dinner: Grilled Government Cheese Sandwich.*

1992 – End of semester celebration with my college BFF: KFC Macaroni & Cheese (we ate until we couldn’t breathe).

1995 – I discover the glory that is French Cheese: Brie, Chevre, Comte, Mimolette, Rombol Aux Noix, etc.

1998 – My stint as a vegetarian: My god, I gave up meat! I deserve as much Cheese as I want!

2000 – I hated graduate school, but I loved:  Char-Grill Cheese Burgers.

2002 – First grownup job in a lonely town: Hello Kraft Shells and Cheese!  You will be my friend and I will hug you and pet you and love you and call you Delicious.

People, that’s a lot of Cheese!  That amount of Cheese results in one thing and one thing only: a very fat ass!  Sometime around 2008 I decided enough was enough. I had to get this thing under control so I developed my Cheese Laws.  They are as follows:

Crackers in Process

1) I can’t live without Cheese.  The times I’ve tried to give it up have resulted in gut-wrenching benders of epic proportions.  It’s better to keep my Cheese Tooth fed a little bit on a regular basis with one of the Safe Cheeses**:  Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Feta, Chevre and Cottage Cheese.

2) The Danger Cheeses*** are still allowed in my home, but they must stay in the package until I have guests with whom to share them.  If any Danger Cheese remains after the guests leave, it needs to either be thrown away or wrapped tightly and buried in the depths of the freezer until I have an excuse for guests.

3) Danger Cheese and pasta are only allowed to come together on holidays and/or special occasions.  This is true even for company.  Sorry people, if it’s not a holiday, birthday, baby shower, bachelorette party, bat mitzvah, etc. you will NOT be getting any dishes comprised of the tantalizing Danger Cheese/pasta combo.  I’m sorry, I just can’t risk having the leftovers.

So, how have these rules worked for me?  Well, my rear is still horizontally expansive, but I have arrested its growth by somewhat strict adherence to these rules.****  I’m doing better with my Cheese these days, but I’m still going to use any excuse to do it up and since today was “Treat Day” at work . . . I just HAD  to break out the Cheddar and Swiss.

If you’ve never had Government Cheese, you have no idea what you are missing.  That stuff was amazing.  It made the absolute BEST grilled Cheese sandwiches.

** Safe Cheeses are those that are really only good as ingredients in other foods.  A slab of mozzarella by itself is kinda meh.

*** Danger Cheese is basically anything that isn’t a Safe Cheese – and I mean ANYTHING.  Even reduced calorie cheddar counts, because the reduced calories don’t help when you eat 8 oz. of it in one sitting.

**** By somewhat strict, I mean I occasionally fall off the wagon.  It had been a couple of months, but last Friday I opened a sizable chunk of Smoked Gouda when a friend came over.  Guess what I ate for dinner every night since?

Jayne’s Cheese Crackers1

(adapted from this recipe, click title for printable version)

Ingredients:

8     oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2     oz Swiss cheese, shredded

4     Tbs butter, frozen & cut into small pieces

¾        c all-purpose flour

¼        c whole wheat flour

½   tsp onion powder

¼  tsp garlic powder

1     tsp salt

4-8 Tbs ice water

Finished! But do separate the crackers so they are crispier.

Prepare cheeses:  Combine all ingredients except water in a large bowl and toss to evenly mix.  Chill in the freezer for ~30 minutes.

Prepare the dough:  Using your food processor and working in 2-3 batches, pulse each batch until the mixture resembles coarse sand.  Be careful not to over process.  The action of the blade will cause friction resulting in heat making your¢ butter melt and ruining the texture of the final product.  Combine all batches in a large mixing bowl and add ice water to the cheese mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing lightly between additions.  When the dough start to come together in clumps, stop and test to see if it will hold together.  Compress ~ 1 tsp of dough with your fingers to see if it will stick together.  If the mixture feels dry, continue adding water up to 8 Tbs total.  Divide dough in 2 and shape into flattened, ½” thick discs.  Wrap each portion tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or 30 minutes in the freezer).

Prepare crackers:  Pre-heat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll dough out between two layers of plastic wrap to 1/8” thickness.  Use a pizza cutter to cut crackers into small squares.  Transfer crackers to baking sheets so that cut sides are not touching.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.  Try not to eat them all in one sitting.

1 This recipe is easy to modify – just vary the cheeses and add whatever spices you want.  I would, however, recommend using only hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, Parmigiano Reggiano, Romano, aged Gouda, etc.


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8 responses to “It’s Complicated

  1. Thank you for being open about your cheese addiction. It may help me address the binge and fast cycle that dominates my relationship with non-fruity sweets. Clearly, I need some rules and structure. Plus, the ‘white butter’ story cracks me up.

    • Since you know everyone involved, I’m sure you’ll find this even funnier: I didn’t know it was cream cheese until I read A Wrinkle in Time. Do you remember what kind of sandwiches they made?

  2. I read in the paper about this cheese shop in Sag Harbor NY and I drove out there on a Saturday this past summer. It took me about an hour to get there and I was somewhat annoyed because I drove through the horrendous Hamptons traffic. Sag Harbor is a nice town I would love to visit again. However, when I entered the cheese shop everything was behind the counter and I didn’t really feel comfortable with the staff hovering over me. So, I spent like five minutes there and immediately went home without buying anything.

  3. Yes, and that was the kind of experience that I was trying to duplicate. That woman is really nice. We should go there when I am in town from 12/24-1/5. When I lived upstate the local grocery chain, Wegman’s, had a great selection. I did finally find a local store here that I am more comfortable with. I go about once a month and spend about $75 on cheese. Still can’t find Cahill’s Irish Porter Cheddar on Long Island though.

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