The Stink Debates… English vs American cheese
Here at The Stink we are intensely proud of our local cheese and the capital’s increasingly plentiful fromageries. The United States, on the other hand, is not famous for its dedication to the craft of cheese-making. The term ‘American cheese’ is used to refer to the type of processed cheese widely available in supermarkets and regularly packed off in the lunchboxes of schoolchildren. This association does not bode well for the United States; whatever bad cheese habits we in England may have fallen into, it is likely we can blame them at least in part on American super-brands like McDonald’s selling ‘plastic cheese’ since 1940.
“Many of us here in the US eat real cheese”
The discussion is a passionate and contentious one online. BBC America says that “on the whole Americans tend to see cheese as a kind of garnish or condiment … something to be dipped in, sprinkled or added to something else” and notes that in the UK, “Region after region … has its own particular blends, flavors and colors”. Commenter ‘Yani’ says to the author of the above, in a well-received remark, that “Many of us here in the US eat real cheeses, and not the crap you mentioned”. ‘Alice’ goes on to argue that the use of processed cheese ought not to be mocked because cheese is expensive and “many, many Americans … can’t afford real cheese”. Commenter ‘Christy’ notes perceptively that Britain’s superior reputation is largely due to its “close proximity to France”, and the sentiment that America is in fact not at all bad at holding its own in the cheese world is echoed through the comments of many other participants below the line, many of whom are American.
On popular food website ‘Chow’ there are 177 largely indignant replies to a Brit asking why Americans “cant [sic] make cheese”. Again many users defend American cuisine against slander from their counterparts across the pond. ‘Howard_2′ says that the US “DOES produce some excellent cheeses but they are not as widely known, or as widely available, as are cheeses in the UK”. Cremon, however – “an American living in the U.S.” – says that “the best tasting cheeses are imported from Europe”. Das Ubergeek parries back by saying that Cremon needs to “start investigating artisanal American cheese, then”. Take that, Cremon.
The Stink put the question to our followers on social media and, unsurprisingly given the geography, there was unanimous support for English cheese when set against American. Respondents spoke of English cheese in terms of “Traditional practices and a taste which has not been corrupted by too much sugar” (Fiona McLeod) and of American cheese as having “plastic” connotations (Joff Thompson; Will Grice). Monterey Jack – subject of much criticism from cheese connoisseurs – prompted Steve Hay to use words like “bland”, “shit” and “Uggggh”. On Twitter, Ed Hewings cited Monty Python’s Cheese Shop sketch as evidence that the English do cheese better than the Yanks.
Ah, Python. England also does comedy better. But that’s an argument for another day.