The Cheese Aisle

By Katiedid Langrock

November 12, 2016 5 min read

When I was in college, I had a stalker. This man would sneak in to my apartment at night, picking the lock or climbing through a window. I would wake up with him sitting on my bed, caressing my face. It was terrifying. So I did what any reasonable young woman would do: I dyed my hair red.

"Desert rose," to be exact.

Sometimes we indulge in the absurd to feel that we have some semblance of control over our own lives. After the election, I found myself grasping for something I could indulge in — some way of taking back control. I found it in the cheese aisle.

Ah, yes, the cheese aisle — a veritable smorgasbord for your senses, with wheels of marbled masterpieces that can invoke a variety of reactions. The sharp, the stinky, the crumbly, the creamy — they were all there. So many options. So many cheeses I have never tried, been too afraid to try. Yes, the cheese aisle is where I chose to (wo)man up and grab life by the Limburger. This is still my America, because darn it, we have cheese!

And I wasn't the only one who sought comfort in colby jack. On Wednesday morning, there were notably more folks in the cheese aisle than usual. Actually, that's not fair to say. Truth be told, I rarely visit the real cheese aisle — you know, the true-blue artisanal aisle, where you buy by the chunk that a cheese guru must siphon from the wheel. This area of the grocery has always intimidated me. My palate is a precious little snowflake, and my wallet is too restricted to risk spending $10 on a quarter-pound of whisked goat milk that would make me turn green with nausea.

My preferred cheese aisle is really the hot dog aisle. It's the aisle with the cold cuts and the Lunchables and the pre-sliced cheddar and Kraft American cheese. I buy mozzarella sticks for my kids, pepper jack for my husband and, if I'm feeling particularly indulgent, a wedge of Gouda or Brie for myself.

But this need for control, for even the smallest victory, wouldn't be satiated with Gouda — not even smoked Gouda. And everyone loves smoked Gouda! No, I coveted something new and risky, the desert rose of Roquefort.

Despite not knowing for certain whether the population eyeing the artisanal wheels of molded milk was larger than usual this past Wednesday, I'm confident they were as new to this crock as I was. We had questions for the connoisseur in the floppy white hat behind the counter. So many questions. We all turned the same shade of green or yellow when smelling certain styles. And we demanded samples. So many samples! Even if I knew the current cheesy offering was something I would abhor, I demanded a taste. It gave me something to lord over, something to demand and to receive.

A few fellow cheese samplers lost their nerve. They tried a single bite of something stinky and decided to go back to the packaged slices of American cheese. But for me and a few other brave Bergenost warriors, we held fast. There was no turning back. It was a new day and a new world, and we would find our place in it! The fight would begin with fromage!

Those were the words playing out in my mind when the lady next to me started to choke. I came right out of my reverie to slap the back of the red-faced rebel. Turns out, not all cheese rinds are edible. Good to know. The man in the floppy hat feigned concern as he rolled his eyes. My new cheese warrior bestie walked a whey. She was done.

I was not. And there were others who continued to sample — to chew, to swallow. We handed over our money and the sanctity of our taste buds for a moment of absurd control — of trying something new, of tasting a new reality.

It was an educational experience. I found a few new cheeses that I actually loved, others that were merely palatable and some that were straight-up disgusting. Disgusting to me, anyway. Clearly, there are enough folks who love the cheeses I found unpalatable, or else they would not be sold. And there's the lesson.

I learned something vital in this quest for culinary control: Even the stinkiest of cheeses can be swallowed — and, eventually, passed.

Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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