Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1221, (13 - 19 November 2014)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1221, (13 - 19 November 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Smile and say ‘cheese’

Cool days and cooler nights herald the end- of- year holiday season. Entertaining is a major part of its hundred delights, and although most of us prefer to be entertained, entertain we must!  The best way is to make it simple… no stress, no rush, no fuss. So smile and say ‘cheese’, the perfect repast for a special group of close friends or a banquet for a flock of party-lovers.

Cheese is a great crowd pleaser and you will be hard-pressed to find anyone who will not relish a slice of cheese. Yet there are some myths out there that must be dispensed with.

A 2012 study about saturated fats that alarmed cheese-lovers has been challenged by the most recent research proving it nothing more than a fairy-tale, an outdated hypothesis perpetuated by wild marketing.

Does cheese clog your arteries, lead to obesity and heart disease?  Absolutely NOT! In fact it is actively associated with heart health. Cheese made from grass-fed pastured animals is an excellent source of Vitamin K2 which has been found to be more important to your heart, brain and bones than was previously thought. No association with heart disease and in some cases an inverse relationship between the intake of milk-fat and dairy products and the risk of CVD, (cardio-vascular diseases) and stroke.

We seem to be captives to each new study, but experts have confirmed that saturated fat is not the culprit. Obesity is caused mostly by sugar-consumption, refined grains, processed foods and most of all a sedentary life-style.

Do not banish cheese from your diet, relish it with joy and gratitude, free of guilt.

Even if you are lactose intolerant, most of the lactose is removed during the cheese-making process; incorporating it with other foods enhances the absorption of important nutrients.

Cheese contains nutrients of high quality, protein and amino acids, as well as high-quality sat-fats,  omega fats, vitamins, minerals, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, vitamins A, D, B2, (riboflavin), B12, Vitamin K2 and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), a powerful Cancer-fighter and metabolism booster.

Cheese parties are popular in Europe and the US, why don’t you give it a try?

A most stunning supper was once given by a London Lady (titled), for some celebrities including the likes of Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Sir Michael Redgrave, poet-laureates and prominent writers. It was a miracle of good taste and refinement. The large table was covered with hand-embroidered Swiss linen and the elaborate banquet was comprised of wheels of cheeses of patrician elegance.  Nothing but cheese in wedges, wheels logs and squares, of every variety, aroma, texture and colour, ranging from milky white to pale yellow, ruddy gold, blue and peppery red.

The cheeses were labelled, each with its own knife. They were served at room temperature, for the utmost flavour. On each end of the table lay two baskets, one contained every kind of bread, dark, white, nutty, seeded, herbed, whole or sliced and warm rolls of every size.  The other was filled with hundreds of cheese biscuits, crackers, breadsticks and dry toast. Fresh fruit was set everywhere, especially slices of apples, pears, figs and of course, cheese’s perfect match, grapes.  Bowls of walnuts, olives and pickles and jars of chutney, butter and condiments stood by every cheese.  Drinks galore, from wine to beers and fruit juices were ready to clear the palette. Plates and napkins were easily available but most of the time the 4 dozen guests hovered around the magnificent spread engaged in serious discourse or innocuous prattle.

A sensation of tripled intensity exploded in the opulent dining hall and a spirit of comfort and merriment was overflowing.  All brought about by a slice or two of cheese!

Nobody knows for certain when or where cheese-making first began, but it has been a staple for mankind for about 8000 to 10,000 years. The earliest archaeological evidence dates back to 5,500 BC in Kuvawaj, Poland.

Ancient man probably discovered cheese-making by accident.  Animal-skin inflated organs have provided storage vessels for a range of food-stuffs.  When he used the stomach organ to store milk, cheese was born.

Egyptian cheese is found on murals dating back to 2000 BC. Greeks made cheese from sheep and goat milk but cow’s milk is now used extensively. By the time of the Roman Empire, cheese-making matured into a true art and has become an everyday staple for mankind ever since.

Walking through a cheese market in Amsterdam, Milan or Marseilles is as unique an experience as you will ever know. Carts, stalls and booths topple with mountains of cheese of every size shape and flavour. Cheese-mongers chase you to taste their delicacies while fruit stands carry an abundance of cheese’s  perfect pairings. The overpowering cheese aromas fill the air with a mingling of the fresh fruit, a perfect mix of the pungent and sharp with the savoury and the sweet.

While Britain boasts of 700 kinds of cheeses, France and Italy claim 400 each, but there are thousands of cheeses made around the world, each to suit the taste of the natives.

De Gaul once said ”nobody can bring together a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.”  He was off by 150.

Cheese significantly lowers LDL-C compared with butter intake of equal total fat and fat content.

Greet family and friends this holiday season with a smile, an elegant tray of good cheeses and stimulating conversation between cheese-nips.   

“What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?”

 Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

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