Worldwide, we produce and consume more cheese than other comfort foods like chocolate and coffee combined. #HumansHeartCheese
But before you take another bite of that cheddar toastie, here are some things you should know about macaroni’s companion:
Some cheese is eaten with live maggots inside
Really. Italy is known for its fantastic cheeses, but on this particular occasion, the world agrees that we are collectively going to give this one a pass.
Produced on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, cheese makers allow flies to lay eggs in their wheels of cheese as the taste of cheese digested by maggots is apparently… appealing?
‘Casu Marzu’ everyone. Bon appétit.
Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian
This could come as a shock to many vegetarians. The cheese is made using animal rennet (a special kind of enzyme used for fermenting the cheese) which is extracted from calves.
Other cheeses like Grana Padano and Gorgonzola are not vegetarian for the same reason!
Mozzarella is winning in the cheese popularity awards
Due to its versatility (and great taste), mozzarella is the most consumed cheese in the world. Our faith in Italian cheese has been restored.
Burger cheese slices aren’t even cheese
You may have noticed that packaged, orange, plastic-looking cheese is often labelled ‘burger slices’ or similar. This is because they hesitate to name the product ‘cheese’ when technically, that’s misleading. Yes, they use milk or buttermilk, or extremely processed / pasteurised cheddar, but I’m afraid you’re mainly eating e-numbers.
It may be less surprising that aerosol cheeses (which are an abomination to the name of cheese) normally don’t contain any cheese at all. We’d suggest you stick to good old camembert and blue stilton from now on.
The Ancient Romans took cheese way too seriously
…and are possibly one of the reasons we are so obsessed with cheese today.
They were the first to truly turn cheese-making into an art, with upper class households having a whole room dedicated to the production of the dairy delicacy.
Their passion for fermented milk products spread across their empire and even today, the words for cheese in a number of European languages come from Latin: ‘Caseus’ brought us ‘cheese’ and ‘queso’ etc., while ‘(caseus) formatus’ (meaning ‘moulded’ or ‘formed’ cheese) is the root of ‘fromage’ and the like.
Wheels of cheese were actually wheels
Well not exactly, but the circular shape of cheese was developed because cheese is actually a pretty heavy substance and wheels are easier to transport.
So when the crazy Brits have competitions for rolling cheeses down steep hills (seriously), it’s because the wheels are just great movers.
p.s. It’s also easier to press cheese into a circular shape, and it leaves fewer thin edges which could become overripe.
Cheddar is never naturally red or orange
In fact, to distinguish the origin of the product, certain US states added different shades to their originally white or cream-coloured cheddars. The ‘annatto’ orange vegetable dye is used in other cheeses too, simply to differentiate them from other types.
The French have fooled us into thinking they are the world’s cheese connoisseurs
Neither France nor Switzerland holds the title for the biggest cheese eaters, or even the nation with the most types of cheese.
To be fair, per capita, the French come in second place after the Greeks in terms of annual cheese consumption, and that is doubtless due to the abundance of feta in the latter country. More surprisingly, the UK boasts the title of the most varieties of cheese, with around 700 types to their name.
Now you are well equipped to continue enjoying cheesy treats and annoying other people with trivia while they eat a burger or pizza slice. Have fun!
Ingredient of the week: Parmesan
Every week we choose a special ingredient from our menu to explore its background and uses.
From the region of Parma in Italy, parmesan cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano) is a global favourite topping for pasta dishes and is a hard cheese made from cow’s milk. It is strictly forbidden to produce the cheese with any additives, only allowing the milk, active fermentation enzyme (rennet) and salt. A wheel of parmesan typically weighs an amazing 40-50kg and would cost roughly 500 euros to buy whole.
Top tip: Most people throw away the rind of the wheel, but the years of maturing make it very flavoursome. Chuck it in the pot with sauces and soups for a taste boost!
Enjoy the best Italian-inspired cooking with this week’s menu!