While other Europeans have extensive lunches, not rarely accompanied by a good glass of wine, we Dutchies traditionally settle for a good old cheese sandwich (‘boterham met kaas’) for lunch, with a glass of milk on the side. Although less remarkable in an international context, Dutchies also love to eat a good piece of (Dutch) cheese before dinner or for desert. At birthday parties (‘gezellig!’) little humps of cheese (and sausage, but that’s not what this article is about) are a traditional snack. There are many Dutch expressions with the word ‘cheese’ in it and people looking extremely ‘Dutch’ are also called ‘cheeseheads’ (kaaskoppen). Dutch people eat almost 15 kilo’s of cheese per person each year. In short: Dutch people love cheese!
The Cheese Cultus
Cheese is very deeply rooted in Dutch culture. Dutch cheese is just as typically Dutch as wooden shoes or the slow-ass bureaucratic process of the poldermodel. Even though France, Italy and even Spain are famous for their cheeses too, for many foreigners the first country that springs to mind when the word ‘cheese’ is mentioned, has to be Holland. That’s not that surprising, considering the fact that Dutch cheese was already well known all over the world in the Dutch Golden Age. Even Roman Emperor Julius Caesar wrote about the cheese-eating country.
Reading about the process of making cheese does not really encourage your appetite. For those of you that have only become more curious after reading the last sentence: the process of cheese making includes lots of bacteria and spoilt milk. Yummy! In this respect cheese isn’t any different from any other food: it tastes good (very good even) as long as you don’t think too much about how it’s made.
So: let’s focus on the fantastic taste of Dutch cheese! In contrast to French cheese, the classic Dutch cheese has a solid structure and is not covered in fungus. Even though Dutch cheeses might to a layman’s eye look the same, there are many different kinds of Dutch cheese, all with their own specific taste.
A lesson in Dutch cheese
Dutch cheese is categorised by its maturation. A ‘young cheese’ has matured for four weeks, ‘old cheese’ for ten to twelve months. Cheese older than twelve months is called ‘overjarig’ (‘overaged’; tastes great in combination with a nice glass of red wine or port, yummy!). Next to this classification by maturation, a (somewhat incomplete) list of Dutch cheeses can be found here, where the cheeses are categorised according to where they’re made (Gouda, Leerdam, Limburg, etc.).
Enough with the serious stuff and the short lesson: let’s skip to the fun part! As I’m writing this article, I not only feel more like eating cheese with every passing minute, I’m also starting to get in a kind of cheesy mood. I was searching the Internet (the WHOLE Internet? Yes, the whole Internet) for artworks containing cheese (I am an art writer after all), but I got bored quite quickly. As it turns out, there are many, many, many paintings, mostly still lifes, with cheese in them. Beautiful paintings from an aesthetic point of view, but not interesting enough to devote an article to. There was one artwork that drew my attention though: a photograph by Carl Warner, who makes so-called ‘foodscapes’. The artist makes real life miniature landscapes made out of food, which he then photographs. He also made a landscape with cheese!
If you want to see more ‘cheesy art’ that I came across on the Internet, check out my Pinterest board, which turned out to become more of a ‘cheese moodboard’ than a serious collection of art that contains cheese, but hey:
So get out of your chair and in to the nearest cheese shop. But not before you’ve participated in Dutchreview’s Birthday competition, so you can win a delicious Dutch cheese package)!
What’s that? To lazy to even go to a cheese shop? No problem, it’s 2013. And even if you are some far away Dutchie living in Canada or Australia and you’ve got a serious hunkering for some Dutch cheese you can just easily order it online.