The Best Times to Eat Cheese

I have been asked this question many times, when is the best time to eat cheese, before the meal (which is what we have been doing here forever) or at the end of the meal (which is typically when the French have their fromage)?

The short answer to that question is: you can eat cheese whenever you want. Either way, before or after, has its advantages.

If you have a little cheese before the main meal it can help to curb your hunger for other less-complete foods. Cheese has a way of satisfying us, especially if you allow yourself a little time to fully absorb it. Because it is fermented for us it is pre-digested nutrition and thusly it is more easily assimilated. Many of the components in the makeup of cheese help us to better digest the other foods; they help to metabolize the other proteins and fats that will follow.

Similarly, at the end of the main meal, when we have all those other foods to digest, the enzymes in cheese help to break down the nutrients. If we did not have cheese before the meal it can contribute its share at the end. In addition to assisting with the metabolism of the other foods, cheese can fill in most any other nutrients that you may have missed in your main course. Cheese is a near-perfect food, near-complete food.

For many of us, cheese can be the meal itself. It provides all the nutrition we need except for vitamin C and fiber. So long as we have had a little C and fiber at some point in our day we can know that we are doing well for ourselves. If we are a little rushed in our daily lives, a little cheese can provide that quick-energy snack that will sustain us for many hours. Fortunately, a little cheese goes a long way.

If not the only meal, cheese can be incorporated into other dishes. A recipe for a main course can be enhanced with a little bit of cheese. I recall observing persons declining a cheese course on its own while selecting other dishes that include the mention of a cheese or cheeses in their titles or descriptions. At least they are getting their cheese!

Not all cheeses have the exact same nutritional values of course. Though all those essential nutrients are offered in most cheeses, it is the relative amounts of those nutrients that differ slightly. This is why we like to recommend having a variety of types of cheese, at least three, and trying new cheeses from time to time.

Every several days I choose a selection of superior cheeses from our cheese maturing caves that mix it up a little. These are presented in Max’s Cheese Plate as an option to purchasing cheeses à la carte. You will find that a greater proportion of these selections are produced from what I refer to as uncompromised milk. They also tend to be firmer cheeses. The firmer cheeses are easier to repackage if you have any leftovers. You are paying for more proteins and amino acids, more good fats and fatty acids, more minerals and vitamins mostly, if you spend your cheese dollars on the firmer varieties. The softer varieties, as luxurious as they may be, have higher water content relative to the other nutrients.

These points and several others are presented in our Cheese & Wine 201 sessions.

Spread the curd!
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