When people ask me what my favorite food is, I always answer, “Cheese,” (or sometimes, “Cheese!!” if I’m feeling especially energetic at that moment). When they follow this up by inquiring what kind, I reply with, “all of them.” This is a bit of an exaggeration—I certainly like some cheese types better than others. But here’s the thing—even the weaker cheese types, like bleu, frequently are still pretty good. Or even limburger—it smells like stinky feet (or whatever negative odor comparison you wish to throw out there), but on a nice cracker, every so often, it’s not without its charms. Cheese, to me, is almost literally magical. You can take the most boring, blandest food, like say, a lot of vegetables, and add cheese—blam!—you have a respectably tasty dining experience. To borrow a cliché junkie’s quote (William Burroughs? Charles Mingus? I couldn’t find out conclusively.), “If God made anything better, He kept it for himself.” If a maniac forced me at gunpoint to have sex with a food item (people in my hypotheticals are often extremely violent and unusually specific about their perversions), it would certainly be a cheese (a brie maybe? A sharp
? You know what—I brought this topic up, but even I think I’ve taken this too far, so let’s move on). Gouda
Now that you have some idea about how I feel about cheese (and I’m being very restrained—I could go on for pages), I’ll go into the subject of today—Gjetost, a Norwegian cheese. When I removed it from its wrapper, and saw the dark brown rectangle, I naturally assumed that this was a rind, and cut into it to expose the actual cheese. But there was no rind! This was it. The taste was definitely unique. It was a combination of caramel and cheese (I’m guessing the Norwegian commercials for it have people bumping into each other while they’re holding these respective items, and the one says, “Your caramel went into my cheese!” while the other says, “Your cheese went into my caramel!” and then they try the result, like it, and laugh inanely). So what did I think? It was really, really, weird. Not bad—I finished about half of it, (the other half consumed by my dad) without disgust, or discomfort, but the whole time you’re acutely aware that you’re eating something very strange, if that makes sense. It’s what I imagine an alien race would produce for us to eat after observing us for centuries—bizarre, but good in its way.
After I tried it, I did a little research on it. Gjetost is the American name for the Norwegian cheese Brunost (literally meaning, “brown cheese,” in their language). It’s made in an unusual manner—goat (and/or cow’s) milk, cream, and whey (but not curds) are boiled until all of the water is removed, and the milk sugar is caramelized (giving the cheese its color and sweet flavor). While variants of it are ancient, a farmer’s wife named Anne Haav (or Hov) is credited with inventing it in 1863. She later received the King’s Medal of Merit in silver for this feat. This food is an important part of
’s cultural heritage. It’s also popular as a skier’s snack, which explains one of its brand names, “Ski Queen.” Proponents describe its flavor as being similar to Dulce de Lec or pal Kova. Evidently its appeal is growing in the Norway , since I was able to find it in our neighborhood grocery store (a Shop-Rite, which has an okay, but not earth-shattering selection.) U.S.
Therefore, I have to say to our Norwegian friends that I admire their culinary creativity, and the result is decent. But it’s so weird! Did I mention that already?