I feel like I spend all my days consumed by my frustrations with education! And there is much that continues to concern and annoy me. But I’m also a parent of two wonderful children. Together with my husband we concern ourselves with beautiful things, enjoyable things. It’s ironic that I started this blog under the premise of “plain satisfactions” yet most of my posts cover the negative aspects of public education policy.
It’s Sunday and I’m taking a day off! Today I just don’t care. School is what it is, but today there is no school. There is only family. And one of the things my family enjoys is cheese! (I know you were expecting something more profound 🙂 … my sincere apologies!)
My husband is Dutch. We met when I was in college studying abroad. Our long distance relationship fared quite well and when I graduated from college I moved to the Netherlands where we lived for two years while he finished his degree. We love our life here in New York State, but cheese is one of the things from our Dutch life that we really miss.
Cheese and the culture of cheese is just not the same here. To be sure, delicious cheeses are available, but beyond the sliced deli cheeses and the shredded cheddars & mozzarellas, cheese stands as an expensive delicacy enjoyed in small tidbits on crackers and other hors d’oeuvres. But in Holland, cheese is a staple food, found in every household. A handheld cheese slicer is a common kitchen tool and many a breakfast and lunch consist of a slice of good bread with freshly sliced cheese.
The Dutch are most known for Gouda cheese, named after the city of Gouda although styles of Gouda cheese are made all over the world. There are many types of delicious Dutch cheeses. It is ubiquitous! Supermarkets have entire sections devoted to large blocks or wedges of cheese. Independent cheese shops are found everywhere. And even the smallest town has a market at least once a week, with at least one cheese wagon selling its wares. (That was where I preferred to get my cheese– jong belegen or a semi-cured stage of the aging process being my favorite! It’s quite a site to walk into a cheese shop or to the cheese vendor at the market and see the stacks of huge wheels of cheese.
Despite what we are led to believe, authentic Dutch cheese is not coated in red wax– that is produced only for export. The Dutch, themselves, coat their cheeses in yellow. Every now and then, my family will buy an entire wheel of Dutch cheese from an importer! 24 pounds of delicious cheese! It is our little luxury, from which we get such great enjoyment! We cut wedges for our friends and family, but for the most part… we eat it! Properly wrapped, it saves quite well in the refrigerator, the cost per pound is about the same (or less) as many of the supermarket cheeses we buy, and the type of Gouda we buy is very versatile and can be used as a stand-in for many of the cheeses we would normally use.
We love it! It’s our guilty pleasure. And it’s also part of our heritage… or at least a wonderful memory of the culture in which we met and an enjoyable part of our day to day life over there, and from time to time here as well.