Saturday 22 December 2007


After a long time of simmering, I feel the need finally to get this off my chest. What is the English obsession with Cheddar all about?

Cheese shops* will differ, of course, but most of us buy our cheese at supermarkets, and the choice we find at those remarkable emporia is - about 93 different kinds of Cheddar, and a few packs of other kinds (that's leaving aside Kraft, Philadelphia, etc, that don't deserve the name of cheese). Tesco, not my favourite at the moment, actually do better at this than some other supermarkets. They have the 93 varieties of Cheddar, but they do have a goodly selection of other cheeses too, enough to make a decent choise from. The local competition is Waitrose, who have about 75 versions of Cheddar, and then a shelf with Gouda and Edam on it. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Let me say straight away that it's not the fault of the supermarkets. They sell what we choose to buy, and the fact is most of us choose to buy Cheddar, Cheddar, Cheddar. Why???

Partly it's a labelling thing - if it's yellow and it comes in a lump, call it Cheddar. Trouble is I don't like it. What they call mature Cheddar is just too sharp, and what they call mild Cheddar is, well, tasteless and textureless. Real Cheddar is fine - it actually comes from somewhere vaguely near the Cheddar Gorge, and it goes really well with digestive biscuits. But everything tasteless while over sharp, lumpy, yellow and waxy has to be called Cheddar and produced in tons.

It's not the only English cheese - Lancashire, Wensleydale, Cheshire, Double Gloucester (and its beautiful variant Cotswold), Leicester, Shropshire, Monkland, Hereford, Stilton, and the piece de resistance, Stinking Bishop. To name but a few out of the almost endless variety. Why do we so limit ourselves to Cheddar?

*Click the link, then look under "C" for Cheese