Total Cheese

Slow Food Nation's Victory Garden
The story goes that cheese was accidentally invented by a Middle Eastern nomad on a desert excursion. He packed some milk in a canteen made from a ruminant’s stomach, and when he tried to drink it, he found it had separated into watery whey and solid curds, the first step in the cheesemaking process. The heat, the friction, and the enzymes from the stomach (known as rennet) had caused the transformation.

True or not, we know that humans have been making the creamy, pungent food for thousands of years. Today, cheesemaking is a high art so attractive it’s become the fantasy second career of many a burned-out corporate type. Whether wrapped in chestnut leaves or dusted atop a Cheeto, cheese is as coveted as wine or chocolate. And its addictive qualities are abused by processed-foods manufacturers: There’s an industry maxim that says if you want a new product to do well, just add cheese.

In honor of our drug of choice, CHOW talked to cheesemakers, -mongers, and experts, to bring you lots of things you might not know about cheese. You’ll find a roundup of great serving trays, books, and other cheese-related products; recommendations for obscure cheeses you’ll want to try; the story behind that infamous maggot cheese; and more. We even show you how to make your own mozzarella.

Still Feeling Cheesy?:
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» Chowhounds discuss the best cheese shops in New York, San Francisco, and Boston