The piece in this issue, “Gracie and The Cheese Factory,” brought to mind the salad days of my oldest son, William, cheeseophile if there was ever one. I remember watching a five-year-old William – he is 13 years old now – sauntering up to a retailer’s cheese counter and, exhibiting quite the sophisticated palate, ask if the cheesemonger had anything similar to a Manchego – his favorite then and now.
A new restaurant opened up near CHEESE CONNOISSEUR headquarters — a Zinburger – and how do I describe my son’s delight to note that he could get a burger topped by both Manchego AND macaroni and cheese!
My wife and I welcome our son’s interest in cheese of all sorts. Each cheese is an opportunity for a history or geography lesson. When we travel, we seek out native cheeses and cheeses not available in the U.S. Last week, we were in Britain and France, and today we are in China. William noted with interest that, though every restaurant in London and Paris seemingly had a cheese course, in Shanghai, once known as the Paris of the East, the local Chinese restaurants have not a piece of cheese in sight.
Yet food should be a pleasure, and so back at home, we find the simple act of offering a serendipitous opportunity to try a specialty cheese to be an uplifting experience. So if we have a barbecue for our sons and their friends, instead of just asking if they want a hamburger or cheeseburger, we offer a choice of five specialty kinds of cheese, complete with little signs. Once we simply offered five different Cheddars! Get ten unsuspecting teenage boys discussing the niceties of each cheese and finish with a taste test and see how it adds to the fun and helps elevate the boys in sophistication and knowledge.
With children, every problem is an opportunity for learning, so when one of the athletes in the bunch brings up concerns about fat, we have an opportunity to discuss the latest research on diet and the French Paradox – where the French eat a high-fat diet and have double the rate of cheese consumption compared to the United States, yet have lower rates of heart disease. We also can talk about portion control and self-discipline, and apply those lessons to areas far beyond cheese.
William suggests that next summer we visit Spain and, specifically, a Manchego cheesemaker. Thirteen-year-olds have been known to have worse ideas – what is wrong with seeing specialty cheese as a portal for a young man to understand more of the world? We open the laptop and pull up a map; our family eats together, thinks and learns together, and we plan together. Don’t ever think it is just a cheeseburger.