Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And scared Miss Muffet away.

Children learn this quaint rhyme from an early age, though most have no idea what a tuffet is, nor curds and whey for that matter.

We will focus on the latter, but the short answer about the former: a tuffet is a footstool, hassock or foot cushion, completely covered in fabric so no legs are visible.

Now about those curds and whey.  It’s an out of date term for today’s cottage cheese.  It would seem Ms. Muffet was probably dieting to keep her girlish figure.  But like many of her time, cheese was a common food, as it remains today.

 Cheese predates human history. In other words, since the time mankind discovered milk from animals, we’ve been producing cheese products.  It was well known to the ancients in Egypt, Greece and Rome.  Some food historians suggest that its origins date back to around 8,000 BCE, when sheep were first domesticated. 

By the time we arrive in Ancient Roman times, cheesemaking was a thriving, sophisticated industry, according to Pliny the Elder.  Cheese shops would sell different varieties imported from around the Empire on a very complex sea trade throughout the Mediterranean. Not only did this help to bring Romans the best of their Empire’s gastronomic delights, but it also helped to spread the market for fine cheesemaking, which remains to this day.

Cheese comes in so many varieties, forms, flavors and variations that only connoisseurs can keep track.

How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?
Charles De Gaulle, in “Les Mots du General”, 1962
French general & politician (1890 – 1970)

 

An assortment of cheeses

Despite the French passion for cheese, the United States produces more than double the amounts of cheese of its next competitor in the world of fromage… Germany. At over 4,250 metric tons, we are the world’s largest cheesemaking nation.  Surprisingly, not all of it comes wrapped in plastic as individual slices. American-made cheeses are some of the finest out there.

For example, we make better and more varieties of Cheddar than they do in England, where the cheese originates.  Yet despite our national passion for making it, most Americans today remain somewhat ambivalent about the great variety at their disposal. A walk through the gourmet section of your local food store will demonstrate that. A beautiful selection of domestic and imported cheeses usually remains untouched except by connoisseurs and gourmands while bulk cheeses, such as shredded cheddar and mozzarella are hard to keep in stock.

We should take a bit more pride in our cheesemaking capabilities in America and eat cheeses produced domestically, as well as the imported varieties.  And what about cooking with them? There is so much more you can do with cheese than melt it on a burger or add it to a taco.

Today, with the economy in bad shape, perhaps it should be noted that by eating an American made cheese once a week would add thousands of American jobs and take a small but significant chunk out of our trade deficit.  So eat cheese. It’s the American thing to do.

Say Cheese, please!

 

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