Oh, for the love of cheese! Why we should eat more of this divine dairy goodness this winter!


"Cheese. milk's leap towards immortality" ~ Clifton Fadiman

With more than 2000 varieties available , it is extremely hard to hate cheese.  Over the years, cheese has become a staple household ingredient in Shillong as well as the country. India has not been  much of a 'cheese nation' and the most common form of  cheese that is consumed is Paneer (a non-melting, un-aged cheese) . The west has introduced us to cheese and that was just the beginning of a promising and "cheesy" love affair between cheese and us.  There has been a significant rise in the consumption of cheese in the urban areas in its various forms like Grated cheese, spreads and blocks and slices.

A cheesy history: According to ancient records, cheese dates back to be more than 4000 years. It is not known who made the first cheese. According to an ancient legend . it was made by accident by an Arabian merchant. As he set out on journey for the day, he had left some milk on his pouch which was made from a sheep's stomach. The lining of the pouch along with the heat of the sun caused the milk to separate into whey and curd. Later that night, much to his surprise the merchant found out that the whey quenched his thirst and the curd  (cheese) had a delicious flavor.

Types of cheese: In India, cheese are available mainly in three different kinds, that is, soft, hard and very hard. The kinds of cheese which is available in the Indian market are:

Cheddar: It is the most popular form of hard cheese made of cows milk.  Depending on the age of the cheese, it can have a mild or sharp flavor and can have a smooth or dry consistency. It is the kind that used mostly in sandwiches, soups and sauces. Cheddar tastes even better with a dash of herbs or spices in it.

Mozzarella Cheese: Also made of cow's milk and known as Pizza cheese. it can be low moisture and partly skimmed or full fat with high moisture.  This cheese is mainly used when making pizza. It has a very high demand considering the rise of pizzerias opening all around the country. Mozzarella can also be made from buffalo milk which is richer in proteins, minerals and other nutrition.

Emmental Cheese:  It is a type of Swiss cheese which is made from whole cow's milk. It is firm and pale yellow in color and has the characteristic holes also knows as 'eyes' in it which is usually formed by gas bubbles that are released by the bacteria  while being cultured. It can have a buttery, slightly sharp or nutty in taste.

Processed Cheese and Cheese Spreads: Most easily available and common form of cheese, it is made by grinding, blending and then heating one or many natural cheeses together along with emulsifying salts to get uniformity and a longer shelf life. This variety of cheese melts easily so it is ideal to make them delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. Cheese spreads are similar to processed cheese but it has a higher moisture content  with edible stabilizers which allows it to spread smoothly even at refrigeration temperature.

Cheesy has a good-bad reputation mainly because it has the potential to be fattening. It contains a large amount of fat that can cause weight gain but when taken moderately it has several benefits that are not spoken of. Cheese is very rich in calcium so it helps to prevent cavities and in maintaining strong teeth. It also prevents bone diseases such as Osteoporosis. Linoleic Acid and Sphingolipids in cheese plays an important role in Cancer prevention. Cheese is high in protein, minerals and other nutrients that help in healthy weight gain. Cheese helps in reducing symptoms related to PMS. It is also considered excellent for skin because it is rich in Vitamin B. It eases migraine headaches. Cheese also boosts our immune system and finally low fat cheese like cottage cheese is extremely beneficial for hair health.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab that grilled cheese sandwich that you've been wanting to have and let the cheese fairy tickle your taste buds!

Photo courtesy: Internet