One of the things that I've been focusing on this year is the cheese plate trend that seems to be everywhere on Instagram. I've done a couple of blogs posts about this, and while I haven't been talking about it as much as I would like, I have been taking notice of the plates that I come across, on Instagram and in real life.
My recent trip to Holland exposed me to so many things I would never have expected, and one of them was how the Dutch eat cheese.
In the US, cheese plates are pieces of art with little negative space left on the board. It's covered in cheese, salami, fruit, crackers, jam, and anything else you can think of to pair with cheese. The fastest growing cheese accounts are ones that often post these over the top boards, and people have been featured on television morning shows from just posting these magnetic boards though their knowledge about cheese is often minimal. They are visually appealing, and people at a party would be thoroughly impressed if it walked through the door.
The Dutch, on the other hand, take a more simplistic route. In Holland, they decipher their goudas by two categories: young or old. The young cheese is soft and supple, grassy, and light. The aged cheese is harder and more crystalline, with butterscotch notes. The Dutch will just put out a large chunk of each, and likely a flavored cheese, with a cheese plane. It's very rustic. They will also serve fresh butter and bread, and if you are lucky enough to go around Easter or Christmas, you will enjoy a marzipan-filled loaf.
As a cheesemonger, I rarely suggest to people to have their cheese sliced ahead of a party. To me, sliced cheese gives the feeling of cheap, Costco boards and when you are serving up some of the best cheeses from the US and Europe, the last thing you want it to look like is cheap. Also, since cheese plates aren't second nature here, people will often not touch the cheese plate if they have to do much work or they don't understand how to eat it. I will always suggest how to should prep the cheese to ease the guest's discomfort. The Dutch, however, have no such connotations and freely display thin slices or cubes of their goudas to be enjoyed.
It helps to remember that unless you are in Amsterdam proper, these cheese plates are being enjoyed at the farmhouse for lunch. It is more of an everyday occurrence to enjoy a cheese plate than what we usually afford ourselves here in the States. To the Dutch, it is fuel for the continued work to be done.
Needless to say, discovering the eating patterns of other countries is endlessly fascinating to me, and I learned a lot from this trip. I've recognized some of my own personal biases, and while I have softened my thoughts about sliced cheese a little, I'm still going to suggest to my customers to have a bit more reverence for their cheese and not slice it ahead of time. I would like to try and get more people on board for enjoying cheese as a simple but pleasurable lunch option though. It needn't be fussy, but it will be delicious and filling!
Do you enjoy a personal cheese platter for lunch? Has your company done a grazing table for events? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
A Certified Cheese Professional living the cheesy life.