For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a distaste for cheese.
When people first learn this about me, they look at me as if I’ve offended them, their family and all they stand for. And while that sounds like a joke, it’s really not far from the truth.
When I was a kid, all my burgers were mustard and ketchup only, emphasis on the only. Then, just to make sure, I’d repeat “no cheese” a few times. I’ve since added more to my burgers, just not cheese.
Over the years it’s become an automatic response to tell people I don’t like cheese because of the smell, the taste and the texture. I plug my nose while walking through the cheese section at H-E-B. Much to the despair of others, I take the cheese off of my pizza, and my tortilla chips go in salsa but never queso.
However, a sprinkle of parmesan doesn’t bother me, and if a dish doesn’t have a distinctive cheese taste, I don’t mind it either. Oh, and Cheez-Its are just fine in my book, but I don’t think that really counts.
I’ve often wondered if it’s just been programmed in my childhood picky-eating habits that I hated cheese. What if I do like some cheeses, but I’ve spent so much time thinking I didn’t like any that I’m missing out on what everyone else says is so amazing?
What I know for sure is that Kraft Singles American Cheese Slices are the bane of my existence. But I wasn’t quite as sure for other types of cheese.
I decided to confront my “fear” of cheese and see if my hate was all in my head. To do this, I skipped the cheese section at the grocery store and decided to go where the experts are, Houston Dairymaids at 2201 Airline Dr. in the Heights.
I went with the expectation that I may not like some of the cheese I tasted, but I was sure that I’d find something to surprise my taste buds in a good way.
Luckily, Houston Dairymaids has free tastings of seven different cheeses every day that it’s open.
I brought along a cheese lover so I would know what the cheese really tasted like beyond my prejudice. She outed me as a cheese hater the moment we stepped up to the tasting table, which ended up making my experience better.
The instructor was so nice and nonjudgmental about my lack of love for the product that I hoped I did change my mind about it. It was recommended to me that when trying a new cheese to smell it, taste a little, and if you enjoy it then try a little more.
The first cheese I tasted was a Texas fresco cheese by Pure Luck Dairy. While it comes in a variety of flavors, the one on the tasting block that day was cracked pepper. It’s a light, fluffy goat cheese that has a tart flavor. Personally, it reminded me a little of yogurt.
Next was Cascina Capra, a natural-rinded goat’s milk semi-firm from Italy. I was told it was unique for a goat cheese because usually they are tangy or salty, but this one had a mild buttery flavor.
Then I tried the Hafod, which is a clothbound cheddar from Wales. Instead of being wrapped in wax, it’s wrapped in a cheese cloth while it ages, which means it interacts more with the air. The cheese has an earthy grassiness up front, but once you get past that it has a mild butteriness.
Next was 1655 Gruyere, a traditional raw cow’s milk gruyere from Switzerland. Apparently it’s kind of the classic cheese of cheeses. It’s very creamy, making it a good melting cheese for fondue or cooking.
Before I tasted Red Hawk, a triple-cream washed-rind cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in California, I was warned that I probably wouldn’t like it. It’s known for being very flavorful and aromatic. Think stinky cheese.
The next sample I tried was an aged goat cheese. It’s a dry, crumbly cheese that is aged for about a year. The cheese is made with a ton of chives, so the smell kind of reminded me of sour cream and onion potato chips.
The last cheese was Glacier Blue, a raw cow’s milk blue with a natural rind from Cascadia Creamery in Washington. The instructor described it as having a nice clean flavor with a pop of funk. It’s made in a lava tube, so a lot of the volcanic mineral flavors come through in the cheese.
While the people at Houston Dairymaids were incredibly helpful, I must admit that this experience concreted the idea that I don’t like cheese. Let’s just say that the cheese lover I brought with me told me I looked pale every time I tried a new cheese.
I’ve also discovered that while my taste buds fiercely denied all the cheeses, the worst for me was the cheddar.
But I did get to sample the Sour Cherry Preserves from American Spoon in Michigan that the shop has in store. I can say that it’s quite possibly the best cherry anything that I’ve ever had.
I think I’ll stick with the preserves from now on.