Talking Cheese: Introduction | culture: the word on cheese
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Talking Cheese: Introduction

In this blog series, intern Julia will explore the everyday language surrounding cheese, from etymology to idioms to associations. Learn why we “say cheese” when we take a photo, why once upon a time we believed that the world was made of green cheese, or even the history of the word cheese itself. Plus, be sure to answer the prompt at the end of the post each week for a chance to win a copy of culture’s ultimate cheese pairing guide: Cheese+

I have always gravitated toward cheese. At soccer pasta parties I would beeline to the baked mac ‘n’ cheese, taking as large a scoop as I could without causing complaints. My brown-bag lunches regularly consisted of sliced provolone with honey mustard, and my after-school snacks were often cheddar and apples. If my dad wasn’t paying attention, I would add extra handfuls of pre-shredded cheese to the pizzas he made us. Holiday plates of brie and jam were at my mercy. When I was really little, my grandfather would come over and make his signature grilled cheese, with butter slathered on both sides of the bread and a good four or five slices of American cheese in between.

I first realized there was much more to cheese than just my small, processed cheese experiences when I visited Europe. Part of me must have known about artisanal and specialized cheeses, just as I know there are both cheap and finely crafted chocolates. But studying abroad in Europe—where we were served delicious brie at every breakfast and where each country I visited featured cheese in so many dishes–I was really hit over the head with the sheer variety. Europe was also where I discovered a personal favorite, Gouda—from the giant wheels you would see stacked in storefronts all over the Netherlands to the snack-sized wedges in the local grocery store. Given the consistent appearance of cheese in my life, perhaps it’s no surprise that I ended up interning here at culture.

As far as cheese goes, I still have a lot to learn (although, just hanging with the staff at culture has taught me more about cheese than I knew in my entire life up until this point!) One thing I had already noticed, however, is the universal appeal of this dairy product. People have a personal relationship with their cheeses—a favorite cheesemonger, a go-to pairing, etc.—but that love is also spread globally, shared between cultures.

This love of cheese is so extensive that it lends itself to aspects of life beyond the taste buds. In my blog series, I will look at some of the linguistic implications of “cheese” and related terms. From etymology to idioms to associations, I will try to uncover the history, modern usage, and fun facts surrounding cheese-inspired phrases and ideas. We’ll kick off the series with next week’s post on the history of the word “cheese” itself!

To tide you over until then, answer this question: What is your favorite phrase or quote involving cheese? Answer in the comments section below by March 18, 2014 at midnight EDT for a chance to win an issue of our upcoming special issue, Cheese+. Don’t forget to tune in next week, when we look at the history of the word cheese!

Photo Credit: Naroa. via Compfight cc

Julia Domenicucci

Julia Domenicucci is an online editorial intern for culture who loves to try new foods almost as much as she loves trying new books. Born just outside of Boston and now attending school in the heart of it, Julia has come to really love the city, its art museums, and all the restaurants in the North End.

18 thoughts on “Talking Cheese: Introduction”

  1. Marisel says:

    “How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?”

    -Charles de Gaulle

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      Definitely a valid point! Have you ever had the opportunity to visit France and try some of their cheeses?

  2. SICA says:

    That’s a-gouda! (I say this all the time…)

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      And that phrase is applicable to so many situations! Great choice.

  3. Jan W. says:

    “[So-and-so] is the big cheese around here.” Would love to know how that expression came about.

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      You’re in luck! We’ll be looking at the phrase “big cheese” in a few weeks…keep an eye out for it!

  4. Katie C. says:

    I wouldn’t call it a favorite, but, as a linguist, I’ve always wondered about the roots of “you’re such a cheeseball,” “you’re being cheesy,” and “I’m really cheesed off.”

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      There is some evidence that “cheesy,” “cheeseball,” and “big cheese” are related…we’ll look at that in a later blog post 🙂 Cheesed off is in the works too (and is a personal favorite phrase of mine–it sounds so silly but is meant to be serious!).

  5. Imogen Wirth says:

    “Say cheese!” –what we say to coax big smiles in photographs of our happiest memories

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      As someone who loves photography, definitely a favorite of mine 😀

  6. David Hall says:

    Job’s Plea to God – Job 10:10
    Remember now, that You have made me as clay; And would You turn me into dust again? Did You not pour me out like milk And curdle me like cheese; Clothe me with skin and flesh, And knit me together with bones and sinews?…

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      This is a great quote, and I was not aware of it before. Thank you for sharing it!

  7. Sondra Casario says:

    “Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.”

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      A great sentiment to have! Where did you first hear that one?

  8. Nicole says:

    “Every kiss begins with que… so”

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      So perfect! That jingle gets stuck in my head whenever I hear it…now I’ll think of cheese instead of jewelry! Haha

  9. Melissa Weatherford says:

    Oh for the love of Gouda! 🙂

    1. Julia Domenicucci says:

      This phrase is very goud-a! 😉 And can be used in an endless number of circumstances.

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