AS A FATHER OF TWO BOYS, William, age 12, and Matthew, age 10, I read with special interest the cover story on Alexander Weiss, age 13, and the winner of Fox TV’s Master Chef Junior. It doesn’t surprise me that a boy should have diverse culinary interests — our boys also have grown up going to many restaurants and have favorites in each cuisine. It doesn’t surprise me that Alexander should enjoy cooking shows – William and Dad have enjoyed countless hours of such shows. And the boys certainly know how to shop for food. William’s favorite cheese has been Manchego since he was seven, and he knows perfectly well how to go up to a counter and ask for something similar. Watching Alexander on the show was a delight and reading his interview is enlightening. Obviously, some children will really enjoy cooking, but the big win for society is that focusing on how food is made and where food comes from leads to a consciousness about eating. It turns mealtime into a thoughtful act and, often inadvertently, leads to reflection on the consequences of food choices.
On the personal level this involves health and ethics, and on a broader level, it involves thinking about the impact of food choices on the environment and sustainability. It is not dissimilar to the effect of keeping kosher or eating only product certified as halal; following such a regimen elevates every bite into something almost divine and thus transforms meals from fueling occasions to something much more important.
This transformation is much like the journey that Americans have traveled on cheese. Many who grew up knowing only
Kraft singles have come to realize there is a cornucopia of high-quality cheese choices. From the ancient cities of Europe to new cheese-making outposts across America, there are options to be pursued, studied, tasted and enjoyed. One can appreciate that specialty cheese is a high-value product and when dairy farmers switch from commodity milk to high-end cheese, they can make a living and thus sustain the land and open space. When we bite into an incredible specialty cheese, we taste the terroir and its distinctiveness, and we both learn more and eat more consciously.
This quest for understanding is the opposite of the mindless eating that leads to obesity.
So we extend three cheers for Alexander, for the other contestants and for a new generation, a generation being brought up to appreciate food, to celebrate technique and to eat consciously.
Here at CHEESE CONNOISSEUR, we stand ready to serve as a guide to help this new generation on its journey.