Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A life history as told through cheese

The AI Blog Post Image Generator created this boy. I like how he looks AND how it rendered the cheese. I make fun of the AIBPIG a lot, but let's give credit where it's due. Nice job this time around.

When I was growing up, the only cheese you could be sure we had in the house at any given time was Velveeta, and I'm more than willing to concede that Velveeta isn't even cheese. Wikipedia refers to it as a "cheese analogue," which is wrong on many levels.

Still, being a cheese-like substance, Velveeta counts for purposes of this discussion.

In my earliest years of cheese awareness, the only time I ate Velveeta was when my mom sliced it for me and included it in my lunch. I was too little to peel back the foil covering and lop off chunks for myself using a knife.

By the way, it was only when I married Terry that I became aware cheese slicers like this one (which I could have used for that Velveeta) existed:

Mom would buy other kinds of cheese from the Fazio's deli from time to time, but my memory of exactly what kinds and how often is spotty. I just know that this sliced Fazio's cheese was the first kind that was truly self-service for me, as it didn't take much effort to open the deli/cheese drawer in the refrigerator, take out the cheese, unwrap it, and grab some for myself.

I'll bet it was American cheese or something like that.

As I got older, I expressed a clear preference for three types of easily obtainable grocery store cheeses (in roughly this order of preference):
  • Muenster
  • Swiss
  • Colby
Being the youngest child (and essentially an only child, with my older siblings having moved out), my food preferences had a huge effect on Mom's grocery shopping habits. I generally got whatever I asked for when it came to food. Thus, Muenster, Swiss and Colby were the cheeses of choice at 1807 Harding Drive.

I remember one New Year's Eve (I'm guessing it was either 1980-81 or 1981-82) when I developed a huge craving for Swiss cheese. Conveniently, we had a half pound of it sitting in the fridge just waiting for me.

So I ate the whole thing.

I downed that half-pound of cheese in something like 15 minutes. And being a young but growing boy, I felt just fine afterward. I'm sure I washed it down with Kool Aid or something similarly sugary.

Sometimes Mom would also buy those half-circle blocks of Colby wrapped in clear plastic. These were a pain compared with the deli-sliced square cheeses in that you had to use a knife to get yourself some, but it tasted so good.

As I got into high school and college, the cheese situation pretty well solidified around Muenster and Swiss. You could always count on finding those two varieties and a heapin' helpin' of Dutch Loaf lunch meat in the kitchen any time you wanted a sandwich.

After Terry and I married, I feel like my love of cheese waned somewhat, and I'm not sure why. She would buy my preferred cheeses when I asked, but for whatever reason I didn't care for them as much as I had as a preadolescent and a teenager.

It has gotten to the point nowadays that the only cheese I eat is Weight Watchers mozzarella sticks, which I like both for the taste and the fact they're only 2 WW points each. They're probably stripped of all nutrients, though, and while I enjoy the flavor, I'm sure they don't taste anywhere near as good as that New Year's Eve hunk o' Swiss so many years ago.

Still, there's no denying that cheese in general is relatively unhealthy, what with all the fat and calories it contains.

I know a lot of people would say, "Oh, just eat the cheese. You're not going to live forever anyway, and life is all about enjoyment."

And maybe they're right.

I even find myself hankering for a slice or two of highly processed, factory-produced, cheese-adjacent Velveeta every now and again.

Cheese nostalgia, it turns out, is a real thing.


  1. Velvets was used to make toasted cheese sandwiches here

  2. Scott, my nutritionist recommended cheese and crackers as a midmorning or midafternoon snack. It's not all bad -- just the Veleveeta. Live a little -- you can thank me later.