What Europeans Do Better Than Americans

There are several things Europeans have done, does and will do better than the Americans for no obvious reasons. Europe’s had the greatest composers, the best film directors, the best painters, the best authors and novelists, and the best kitchen. Now, I am not saying that the Americans are inferior, not at all, they are for instance a lot better than we Europeans when it comes to melting several cultures together into one, and I cannot think of one European company with the same globalisation effect and influence over mankind as the American companies have in the past.

If we look back at the kitchen, however, there is one thing in particular (or one food, I might be tempted to say) which the Americans have never got the hang of. I’m talking of the delicacy that is cheese. According to Jenny and Judy Ridgwell, in their book “Food Around the World”, it seems the first cheeses were in fact produced in Asia, in the Middle East or by nomadic Turkic tribes in Central Asia. There is however, no conclusive evidence indicating this is perfectly true and should be regarded as fact.

In post-classical era, when Rome spread the cheesemaking techniques throughout Europe, several of the cheese types we know of today came to life. As Rome declined and the trading routes and trading possibilities collapsed, the cheese in Europe diversified even more. Many of the cheeses we know best today actually originated during the late Middle Ages, like cheddar, parmesan, gouda and camembert. Accoring to the British Cheese Board (they do have something for everything, don’t they), Britain alone has approximately 700 different kinds of local cheeses. France and Italy have some 400 each. The French are very proud of their cheese, it seems, and they actually even have a proverb saying there is a different French cheese for every day of the year, while Charles de Gaulle in his days, said “how can you govern a country in which there are 246 kinds of cheese?”.

Now, there are several kinds of cheeses, and they are not at all the same. The fresh cheeses, that can spoil in only a matter of days, and are simply made from one curdling process. Under this category we find such cheeses as cottage cheese, the Neufchâtel, Mozarella, paneer, questo fresco and the Romanian Caş. Other cheeses are made from the whey discarded from making other cheeses such as the Norwegian geitost (goat cheese), Greek Mizithra, Provincal Brousse, Italian Ricotta, Romanian Urda and the Corsican Brousse.

Further on our journey in the world of cheese, we get to those classified by content, which are mainly categorised by the kind of milk used or by the added fat content of the milk. While most cheeses are made from cow’s milk, there are also several odd alternatives, produced from goats, sheep, ewes and even mooses’ milk! The primary example of a content-classified cheese is the roquefort but also feta and double cream cheeses fall under this category.

We then have the cheeses classified by their texture, usually determined from their firmness which ranges from soft to hard. I’ll just list them up this time as havarti, munster, port salut, emmentaler, gruyère, gouda, edamer, jarlsberg, cantal, cheddar, colby, monterey jack, parmesan and pecorino romano. These can last for a long time and those mentioned mid-sentence are even top notch for melting for use on Hamburgers, toast or just as snacks.

There are three categories in which the presence of mold is a significant feature; soft ripened cheeses, blue cheeses and washed rind cheeses. The former age inwards and makes for very intense flavours, like we find in brie or camembert. The blue cheeses are made by inoculating mold during the process which then grows inside the cheese during aging, and include styles such as roquefort, gorgonzola and stilton. The latter classification, the washed rind cheeses, also ages inwards, however it is treated during the aging process with different mold-bearing agents such as beer, wine, spices and brandy. This makes the cheeses smell very distinctively and intense, and it is then not hard to tell which styles you’ll find here, namely the limburger, appenzeller, and also some camembert and munster cheeses.

Now, with the basics down on paper, here comes the very odd thing about cheese. All of the aforementioned styles are European, yet the world’s largest consumer of cheese, or “cheese” as the French might want me to type it, is the USA. There is namely one more classification of cheese, which the USA seems to adore and love like its own baby; the processed cheese, which is made from salt, food colouring, preservatives, milk and other traditional cheeses. It is inexpensive and honestly speaking, gut-wrenchingly unoriginal and distasteful.

In other words, the largest producer and consumer of cheese in the world make most of their cheese in large factories, with no aging process, no curdling process and makes it taste mostly like milky plastic. The entire soul of the cheese is gone and what is left is a product merely of use to those without sophisticated taste-buds and no real sense of food. While I agree that some food items like a cheeseburger at a major fast food chain or the likes should be eaten as such and not really exposed to a series of tests and analysis regarding appearance, taste and after such be eaten with carefulness to create a culinary exploration and experience, other foods should. Among them food which has a history, a diversity and at the same time a common task to fulfill – much like the Americans themselves.

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