Millions of elementary aged children may shriek in protest, but their lunchtime staple is not really cheese. That yellow square of American cheese is actually defined as “processed cheese food,” which translates roughly to petroleum in a cellophane wrapper. So what exactly defines a real cheese? Thankfully, the answer is relatively straight-forward. The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, is a good place to start when trying to define an edible object.
From their website, they claim that cheese is “a product made from curd obtained from the whole, partly skimmed, or skimmed milk of cows, or from milk of other animals with or without added cream, by coagulating with rennet, lactic acid, or other suitable enzyme or acid, and with or without further treatment of the separated curd by heat or pressure, or by means of ripening ferments, special molds, or seasoning.”
This verbose definition boils down to cheese being the result of milk coagulating or ripening. The ingredients are always the same; casein, water and fat. Anything that does not fit this definition cannot truly be called cheese. Various seasonings or other treatments may be administered to change the flavor and texture of the finished product, but the fundamentals always stay the same.
The cheese can also be classified by the curd production method, milk source, or texture and consistency. While there are over three hundred styles of cheese available, only a mere eighteen are well known. Anything from Limberger to Munster, Cheddar to Swiss, can be found in many local supermarkets or delis. To find the more obscure varieties, a person would need to travel to the country of origin or a specialty cheese shop. No matter which type you try, do your palate a favour and avoid the individually sliced pretend cheese. You deserve to eat something real.
Keep being ewenique!