When I first started this project in June, I figured it would be a pretty easy venture to undertake. And for the most part, it was. Every week I’d march into my local Stop & Shop, loyalty card a-blazing, and choose four unsuspecting cheeses to pit against each other in a battle royal to see who would claim the top spot. While I’d like to say that there were no losers throughout the competition, that would be a lie. There were losers—big ones (cough cough Cheez Whiz cough cough). Some cheeses made me laugh. Some cheeses made me cry. Some cheeses even made me do this. But sometimes, to find the treasure, you need to wade through a lot of trash.
While the purpose of this blog series was partly to give myself a reason to buy four packs of string cheese without feeling like a toddler who stole mommy’s purse, the driving force behind it was to bring light to the fact that at the end of the day, the world of cheese is a privileged one. For many Americans, spending ten dollars on a block of cheese is outrageous, teetering on the edge of irresponsible. For Susie and Stan Homemaker, there’s nothing that a bag of shredded Monterey Jack can’t do that an aged cheddar can, and to think otherwise is ridiculous. As the sphere of artisanal food becomes more public, the cheese world has slowly but surely become a binary—good (expensive) cheese vs. bad (cheap) cheese. Now, while in a lot of ways this makes sense considering the time and effort that goes into making a good cheese, it doesn’t take away from how much it sucks.
I could have judged higher-end cheeses, but I decided that my time was better spent highlighting the best cheeses at the lower end of the price spectrum. In doing this, I (hopefully) was able to throw a little praise toward some companies that are working to eliminate the concept of being able to “afford” cheese. While this might seem to be a bit “who cares,” if there is one place where I believe privilege should not exist, it’s in food.
So as I bring this blog series to a close, I want to give some last hurrahs to a few of the champions of Supermarket Showdown. A hurrah to Cabot, king of sharp cheddar! A hurrah to Kraft, the master of macaroni! And a big hurrah to all string cheese everywhere, because god dammit you are tasty.