One of my favorite things about my job is nailing a cheese recommendation. A customer will sally up to the counter and ask for advice, saying they want this, that, or the other thing for a party or lunchtime nosh. As a seasoned monger, I begin my mental detective work, trying to match adjectives with the myriad of cheese flavors in the case. I scrutinize, pass over, pick and choose until I think I’ve got the right one. Then I’ll slice off a wedge and pass it over the counter to see if it passes gustatory muster with the taste buds on the other side. The most satisfying moment of mongerdom is watching that slow, unyielding grin spread across the customer’s face if I do in fact nail it, and share in their little cheese ‘Eureka!’ moment.
Those smiles speak volumes. I mean, how many foods are able to evoke that kind of reaction in us? I’m the first one to profess my love of brussels sprouts, but I would doubt very highly that I break out into a veg-eating grin upon popping one in my mouth. We always knew that cheese is good for you, but this week, we’re ready to dig in and tell you why. For anyone who’s been looking for a reason to induldge and eat a slice of rich, savory cheese, read on!
Cheese has sustained people across the globe for millennia in a dizzying array of climates, geographies, and cultural food traditions. In talking to Max McCalman, author of ‘Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager’ yesterday on Cutting the Curd he got into the nitty gritty of why cheese, one of our most primordial foods, is a friend and not a foe on the nutritional (and even the psychological!) front.
Did you know that cheese contains lots of beneficial vitamins and minerals as well as ‘good’ fats and cholesterol? Cheese is chock full of calcium and protein, and contains high levels of both A and B vitamins. In his book, Max points out that if you were to consume a 3.5 oz piece of cheese (a pretty hearty little hunk!) you’d be getting twice the protein and about one quarter the cholesterol found in two eggs. The fats found in cheese that make it so satiating and delicious actually work in our favor, allowing our bodies to absorb all those vitamins and helping to metabolize fats from other foods as well. In other words, a little piece of cheese gives you a lot of nutritional bang for your buck, and will certainly keep that hungry, rumbling tummy feeling at bay for much longer than most snacks.
As for the psychological effects, Max asserts that the amino acid tyrosine, which is found in cheese is absorbed into our bloodstreams to the benefit of our brains. When we eat cheese, we also ingest and break down casein, the most prolific protein in cheese. Part of the casein is converted to casomorphin (yes, in the same family as morphine) to produce a ‘feel good’ effect that probably contributes to that indulgent ‘oh, let’s just chill out on the couch for a bit and slice off a few more chunks’ phenomenon.
As the old saying goes… ‘Everything in moderation… including moderation.’ But seriously, a modest chunk of real, farmstead cheese is a tasty, and very nutritious element to add to your daily repertoire. If you eat just a little bit of the good stuff, it’ll leave you satisfied, happy, and healthy. As for the casomorphin, maybe we’re on to something… I can see the headline now: Doctors Prescribe Cheese For Just About Everything!
If after reading this you feel like you might be in need of some cheese therapy, come on over to Louis 649 tomorrow evening, Tuesday June 8th, from 7:00 to 8:30 and enjoy a selection of five of Saxelby Cheesemongers’ finest seasonal cheeses and a selection of delicious wines!
Cheese and Wine at Louis 649
Tuesday, June 8th 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
649 E. 9th St. (between Ave B & C)
RSVP by clicking here or calling 212-673-1190
Till next week, eat cheese, and be merry!