What’s the best cheese?
Babybel is the bomb
Cheese is a curiously emotive topic. It is a food stuff that people get frantically exercised over. They really, really, really like cheese. They will champion their favourite cheese, and they will get upset – cry real, cheesy tears – if you disagree with them.
But to each his own – in the world of cheese, there is never just one winner.
It’s disgusting, they say. Why’s it so lumpy, they say. But they just don’t know the secret: while they’re growing round, eating cheddar and brie, you’re loading up on the tartest, bitterest gym-friendly cheese going and actually getting more ripped in the process. Imagine that – they’ve probably never even heard of casein. What amateurs.
Dairylea triangles are for people who can’t face reality? Who cares? Reality sucks, and Dairylea are bite-size and creamy and remind you of your lunchbox. And when you bring them to the park for a picnic, everyone wants one. The Brie sits untouched, ripening unpleasantly in the spring sun.
It’s pungent yet phenomenal, it is salty and versatile. Whether it is crumbled over a summer salad, or melted on top of an oven baked pizza, goat’s cheese is a tasty, fatty, all-rounder. It satisfies palettes great and limited, it is delightful raw or baked.
Manchego is hard and chalky in texture; it is tangy in taste. Arguably, the rind tastes quite similar to the cheese. It is strong, it is nutty, it is buttery. It makes your teeth a little oily. It is a cheese for people who do not take any shit – who are not afraid to raze large shavings of it off the block and fold them into rocket leaves and spinach, or whack them on top of a rye cracker. It is a cheese for someone who doesn’t yet love wine, but is learning. It is the cheese of your twenties – you’re not an adult yet, but you’re dabbling, and you’re pretty good at it.
No cheese that looks like halloumi has the right to taste this good. These flattened rectangles riddled with griddle marks break all the rules of a good cheese: they don’t go soft and runny on your burger, they can’t be grated over your bolognese and they’re utterly crap on crackers. Yet somehow, despite all these setbacks, halloumi is a delight, a salty car tyre giving your falafel wrap the meat-esque chew you were secretly craving. It’s probably the only thing keeping vegetarians sane.
Cheddar is like that guy in your friend group, the one whose arrival everyone awaits at the pub. You’re at a party and in the back of your mind, a question niggles: Where are they and why aren’t they here yet? Cheddar is not that friend who you “adore, but they’re just hard work”, or that “you like every now and then, just not in large doses”. Cheddar is the cheese for nigh on every occasion. Mature or mild, there’s a cheddar for everyone. Those snobs who protest that the only cheese with a place on pasta is parmesan (which smells like vomit, by the way) are the same band of people who think “Glastonbury is over” and “Croatia is for chavs”. Or they’re Italian, in which case, carry on.
Imagine a grilled cheese sandwich with brie, or something. Brie – all gooey and silly, like a French person. The French don’t do cheese on toast properly anyway. They do the Croque Monsieur, which, sure, is fine if you’re in an Encore Tricolore textbook. But for a real cheese on toast you want mature cheddar: rich, nutty, thick, fatty. You want to eat it in chunks off the block, you want to suck on mature cheddar lollies. It is the only cheese you need.
You have had a hard day. It is raining and cold and you forgot your umbrella. Things are pretty grim. But then there’s Camembert. Camembert is waiting for you. You have garlic, you have rosemary. You have a crusty tiger roll – the white one that you know is really bad for you but is meltingly soft. No other cheese brings such comfort and light to a dull dreary day as a wheel of Camembert. Yes, it smells like feet, yes you’re eating the rind. Do you give a fuck? Nope. The warm, gooey texture of this dreamy cheese is the gift that keeps on giving. Literally – the stench won’t leave your house for days.
Red Leicester is the box room. It’s rollies. It’s vodka and squash, and ketty house parties till 6am. It’s “who gives a shit if I’ve got work tomorrow, I’m going to have a lock in at the pub”. Red Leicester lovers have all the friends, and all the money left from not buying £5 parmesan to have fun with. Red Leicester is always on offer, and it’s the cheese of sprightly opportunists just trying to get by, and always with a smile on their face. It’s versatile, it’s tasty, it’s THE BEST when melted, it’s everything you think cheddar could be but isn’t. Plus it’s orange.
Wensleydale and cranberry
Mary Kate and Ashley. Jäger and Red Bull. Zac Efron and tight T-shirts. There are some things in this world which were made to go together, but none so much as Wensleydale and cranberry. Who first thought such a boring cheese could be made so wonderful with just a dash of dried fruit? Whoever it was deserves a medal.
Stilton is the gateway blue cheese: it led you away from the straight and narrow world of cheddar and expanded your horizons in a way you never thought possible. As your quest for the smelliest, mouldiest bit of cheese escalates into your 20s – why does this happen? Why is this your focus? – only one thing is certain: nothing can ever truly replace your first love.
It’s lighter, prettier and more versatile than most cheeses. Feta is the fun, flirty lovechild of goats cheese and halloumi. It’s salty, it’s crumbly. Drizzle it with some olive oil, crumble it on some pasta, toast it in a baguette – there really isn’t much it doesn’t go with.
Maybe it’s not the kind of cheese you eat by itself, maybe it’s not a multitasker – but parmesan is fucking classy. It’ll cost you £5 for the tiniest slab, but your spaghetti won’t be the same without it. Also, just known as “hard cheese” in Lidl, which is quite funny.
Pop a Babybel in your mouth and pretend you aren’t loving life.