A very good friend of mine – we’ll call him The Bean Counter, even though he doesn’t strictly speaking count beans anymore – loves cheese. Cheese is his life. From a nice crumbly Cheshire (the English county from which we both hail) to an oozing brie, The Bean Counter’s love of cheese knows no bounds. If The Bean Counter was deprived of cheese for more than a day, let there be no doubting that there would be wide and unmitigated bloodshed.
Given his love of cheese, The Bean Counter really should consider a move to this side of the pond. Not since the Italians discovered the tomato can one nation have been so obsessed with one particular foodstuff. Cheese is a central part of day-to-day life in the United States, so much so that I can probably count the number of times that it has not featured in any meal I’ve had since moving here on the fingers of one hand.
Essentially, like butter in the UK, if you order a sandwich in America it comes with cheese as standard. Cheese is scattered on top of all Italian meals, regardless of whether it already comes topped with cheese. And the
supermarketsgrocery stores have endless rows of pre-packaged plastic cheese (on top of the hundreds of bags of gratedshredded cheese) that clutter shelves everywhere.
The irony is that artisanal cheese is very difficult to come by, with Americans – by and large – seeming to prefer the relatively tasteless blocks of mass-produced cheese that are only really fit for cheese on toast. And if you want to get your hands on the good stuff, prepare to pay through the nose.
The US obsession with cheese really struck home last week, when – nursing a hangover – I made my way down to the bakery beneath my office to get a bacon sandwich. This being New York, I was obviously prepared for the fact that the sandwich would actually be a bagel, and that it would contain streaky bacon rather than the more meaty back bacon I’m used to. But when it came to ordering it, I simply couldn’t make the person understand that I wanted neither eggs nor cheese on it as well. Having battled for what seemed like five minutes in an attempt to get just my bagel and bacon, I finally relented and accepted the addition of cheese. Cheese and bacon – together. On a sandwich. What kind of combination is that? Wrong on so many different levels, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Don’t tell anyone, but it tasted amazing. The Bean Counter would have been in his element. God bless America.