Sunday, February 7, 2010

Say Cheese!

This past week my Honors 1120 students and I taste tested 5 different cheeses to further develop our palates and to practice source synthesis. The five cheeses were:

Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar by Rosewood Products, Ann Arbor, MI bought at Happy Badger.

Canal Junction Grassfed Sharp Cheddar from Defiance, OH bought at Kazmaier's Family Grocery.

Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar from Vermont bought at Kazmaier's Family Grocery.

Kraft Natural Mild Cheddar Cheese from Kraft Foods Global bought at Meijer.

Velveeta from Kraft Foods Global bought at Kroger.

Here's our collaborative narrative. We hope you enjoy it!

Most of us associated cheese with mice, "holes," and pasta dishes. Mostaccoli is one such dish that came to mind. Megan writes, “In Chicago we have a really popular restaurant called Barnelli's and I always get their baked mostaccoli, it's the best I've ever had. Cheese is kind of like a comfort food to me cause I have loved it ever since I was a little girl.” Jessica agrees with Megan and further describes Mostaccoli: “My favorite cheese-related dish is a baked penne pasta in tomato sauce. You can get it at the italian place called DiBennedito's downtown on the same side of the street as Panera. It's penne pasta and chicken, prosciutto, mushrooms, peppers, and all kinds of good stuff in a thick cream tomato sauce and the whole dish is covered in baked mozzarella and parmesan cheese, which is the best part.” As a class we determined that when most people think of cheese, they think of pasta and comfort foods, such as Mostaccoli and Macaroni and Cheese. Megan and Jessica illustrate this love of pasta cheese dishes.

After many taste tests, the Happy Badger cheese turned out to be a well accepted cheese by most of the students in the class. The raw milk sharp cheddar cheese appeared to be white in color and it smelt just like a regular cheddar cheese. Erin says, “I didn’t think that it had a whole lot of flavor but I still enjoyed it.” Her opinion is echoed by Megan: “I like most cheeses, especially cheddar cheese and I thought this one was really good.” Rachel describes this cheese as having “a nice flavor to it.” Several students described the cheese as difficult to cut and it appeared to have a firm consistency. Some students were skeptical about the appearance of the cheese, however most of them decided to try it. Lin-z says, “This cheese looks a lot like the gross Canal Junction cheese, but I gave it a shot.” We would recommend this particular cheese because overall it was well-liked by most of our classmates. It maintains an original cheddar taste, but was not too extreme.

Canal Junction Grassfed Sharp Cheddar from Defiance, OH bought at Kazmaier's Family Grocery is a cheese that is loved by some and hated by others. The majority of the class disliked the Canal Junction cheese. When describing it one person, Lin-Z Tello said said, “This tasted like cow poop. Disgusting. It smells innocent enough but once you take a nibble its like 'KA-POW' and your mouth is fighting against the farm. Not cool.” Erynn was one of the taste testers who preferred the taste of this cheese. When addressing her ideas on the cheese she shared knowledge of cheeses produced in different areas to give insight to why this cheese has the distinct taste. She wrote, “I love this cheese. … There is a distinct flavor you can tell what the cows were eating. It Italy, the people who live on the flat part are so obsessed with their cows and cheese, they keep them in barns and only feed them certain grasses and herbs so the milk tastes a certain way, and the cheese produced is very strong like this.” Though these opinions are very diverse, it appears to be a matter of person taste preference for the Canal junction cheese from grass-fed cows.

The Vermont cheese is one of its own, a truly unique piece of cheese. This variety of cheese is white, has a thicker substance, and was generally liked by the entire class. In regards to this cheese, Eryn writes, “This is a good cheese. It's not to sharp, not too smooth, a good consistency in your mouth. It breaks apart crisply from the brick and sort of cushions your teeth as you chew, truly a pleasure for the mouth.” Stephanie also liked this type of cheese, writing, “It had a little bit sharper of a taste than the Raw Milk one, but way less sharp than the Canal Junction one. Overall, it had a nice consistency.”

In America, when we think of cheese Kraft is a brand that comes to mind. It's a very common and accessible product in all major grocery stores and food chains. There is no preparation involved for this product. All you must do is simply cut the cheese, place it on a cracker and enjoy! People seem to have different reactions to this cheese, with some enjoying it and others not. As one classmate, Jessica, stated, "The Kraft cheese had a sharp flavor, but it tasted a little fake, like it had wax or oil or something added to it. It's after-taste made me feel like I was sick for a split-second." This shows that she was not very fond of the Kraft cheese. Rachel, on the other hand, really liked the Kraft. She said, "I enjoyed the Kraft cheese...the cheese stays together when I cut into it, and long after. The flavor seemed like what classic cheddar cheese should taste like - the flavor I imagine whenever anyone mentions cheddar cheese." These classmates reactions are an example of how different people enjoy different things.

Velveeta cheese is made by Kraft Foods Global and can be bought at Kroger grocery store. Jessica Miller thought that Velveeta cheese was "gross. It looked like margarine...and it kind of tasted like it too." Tracy Zack had like thoughts, asserting that "[it] smooshed together when I cut it. It didn't smell authentic...It was packaged in a foil wrap inside of a box." Jessica believed the cheese was too processed to the point it didn't feel or taste like cheese, and Tracy would agree. Both girls had immediate reactions of distaste for Velveeta cheese, and they would not recommend it to others.

As a class we were struck by the differences between each cheese's texture and taste. We realized, too, that even though Velveeta was clearly the most processed of the cheeses, it was one that recalled many memories and feeling of "home," which we found important because it showed us that all food has meaning.

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