Is it cheese or not?

I recently had the opportunity to get involved with selling some  local “artisanal” cheese.  I had a great time. Maybe not as much fun as when I played fishmonger a few months back but there were moments I laughed till I was crying. Always a good thing.

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First a tip, if your going to taste cheese (or serve it) it should be at room temp or at least not right out of the fridge. You can’t get a good taste on a cheese when it is icebox cold. I laughed when one of my regular customers, a wonderful man from France, looked at me and said “Your fromage, they are cold”. Then rambled off a bit more of his displeasure in french that I could only pick up bits and pieces of. He was right. When he came back a bit later when everything had come up to a more pleasing temp, he laughed and said it was not real cheese. He wished me luck and said he would see me next time.

The question of the weekend was, “what is this cheese?” or “Is it real?”. My coworker , who is a health nut as well, even was scratching his head at the label.  It said “pasteurized processed cheese” but then it said “aged” on it. Hmmm what was the truth behind this. Is this real cheese or not?

I steer clear of anything that says processed if I can. So that was my first sign something was not right. I admit though I fell for the  word artisanal, which is even showing up at fast food joints now. Nothing in a fast food place is artisanal.  The word “aged” had me too.  Hmmm I thought. We were stumped on this one and when I got home each night I was too tired to figure out what the truth was. I was lucky to be able to put a string of words together to form an actual sentence after 12 hrs on my feet.

The second clue was the shelf life. A year away. But its cheese my coworker would tell folks. Cut the mold off, enjoy it anyhow. Just don’t let it dry out.  But the year shelf life had me thinking something might be not right.  Again sheer tiredness had me.

The FDA will have you believe it is real cheese. I guess it is according to their ideas but there is just something about that elastic texture that screams no to me

Pasteurized process cheese – contains 100% cheese
Pasteurized process cheese food – contains at least 51% cheese.
Pasteurized process cheese product – contains less than 51% cheese.

So pasteurized process cheese is real. It’s cheese, made from cheese with other things added to it. Hmmm.

Processed cheese is popular. It melts well, it’s easy to work with and again the shelf life is longer. It is also going to have a lot of ingredients you don’t need. Like extra oils, food colorings and possibly even sugars.  It might not seem like something to think about but if you’re trying to become healthier or lose weight those tiny bits of extra ingredients add up and usually around our mid-section.

My best advice, read the label and decide for yourself. Then ask yourself the following:  Can you pronounce it? Do you know what it is? Would your grandmother have eaten this? Yes?  Then eat it.

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When I lost weight two years ago I didn’t give up cheese.  I didn’t know yet dairy was the cause of some of my health issues. But during that time of loosing weight one of my favorite lunches was a Ploughman’s Lunch. We’d cut up cheeses, smoked meats or salmon, put out lots of veggies and pickled items and olive and enjoy.

Thing is we ate real cheese. One’s with shelf lives and that had ingredients you’d expect in cheese. Nothing processed and rubbery and shiny. That’s the trick. Eat real food.  You don’t have to give up something like cheese (unless you’ve been advised to by your doctor) to lose weight. Give up cheap crappy fake cheese. Save it for the once in a blue moon.  Always enjoy in moderation and you wont be missing out.

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