Can You Cut It?

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”  G.K. Chesterton

Called yellow gold, Dutch cheese ranks one of The Netherland’s largest exports, right up there with tulips, and not matter how you cut it, who wouldn’t appreciate a table laden with beautiful cheese and flowers?

Still life with cheese, almonds, and pretzels by Clara Peeters, 1594-1657. Flowers optional.

Still life with cheese, almonds, and pretzels by Clara Peeters, 1594-1657. Flowers optional.

De Gaulle's ponderings over how to govern a country with 246 varieties of cheese make me wonder where he got the specific number. I can’t find one for Holland, although cheese is ubiquitous and each variety is attached to a specific location of production.  Cheese is a gift from the flat green fields of dairy cattle dotting the countryside. The Dutch landscape is cheese landscape, and has been perhaps since Roman times.

Cows in a (Dutch) River by Aelbert Cuyp, c. 1650.

Cows in a (Dutch) River by Aelbert Cuyp, c. 1650.

Gouda (pronounced by the Dutch with a hard throat clearing ‘G’) and Edam are two popular Dutch cheeses also available in the States. They appear in The Netherlands in great colored rounds, from which you can have a wedge cut to bring home. Leyden cheese, which I have not seen in the US, is a pleasant surprise with flavorful studs of savory cumin and caraway seed for a spicy flavor.

 

Beautiful Dutch cheese rounds

Beautiful Dutch cheese rounds

The first time I ate Dutch cheese, I was confronted with one of these.

Dutch cheese slicer

Dutch cheese slicer

You can’t eat cheese in Holland without one. We had one in a remote drawer of my American kitchen growing up, but I have little memory of actually using it. When confronted with a thick Dutch style wedge of cheese, the American will invariably cut it into smaller bite sized pieces and place it on crackers, usually in the evening with a glass of wine.

Of course the Dutch have evening cheese and crackers, but I was surprised to find them also eating cheese for breakfast. One morning as I forced the cheese slicer’s blade down into the cheese in an attempt to break off a chunk, a close relative recoiled in horror, demanding, “How could you not know how to cut the cheese?”

Tremendous wording. While the laughter subsided, I learned the proper approach.

Trim the hard edges of the cheese rind so you can slice evenly across the end of the cheese.

Trim the hard edges of the cheese rind so you can slice evenly across the end of the cheese.

Modern still life with Dutch open faced cheese sandwich. The Dutch also make great bread.

Modern still life with Dutch open faced cheese sandwich. The Dutch also make great bread.

Cheese sandwiches are consumed for breakfast, lunch, and snack time across The Netherlands. Holland is fueled by cheese.

And coffee, but coffee is another story.

 

Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer and story teller. Her work is inspired by both her native Cape Cod, where she covers the local farm beat for Edible Cape Cod magazine, and her experiences in The Netherlands.  Mary is the author of Minerva's Owls, (Homebound Publications) finalist in the American Book Fest's Best Book Awards 2017, religion and spirituality. Minerva's Owls remembers the divine feminine to reenvision the world.  Mary is currently dividing her time between Cape Cod and The Netherlands.

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