Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kaas ("cheese")

Gouda, Edam, Leiden cheeses!
Everyone loves cheese! 
Uh... Except vegans, the lactose intolerant and those with life-threatening cheese allergies.


Every European country makes its own types of cheese. The French have over 400 varieties, the Belgians 250 and the Dutch about a dozen. Although they don’t make a wide range of cheeses, the Dutch do make large quantities of what they do have. In the Netherlands the most popular cheese for export and domestic consumption is Gouda cheese, which is why Gouda comprises 60% of all cheese produced in the Netherlands. Gouda is wow-da. Gouda is good.

Gouda cheese is named after the town near Rotterdam which makes this young cow’s milk cheese. Likewise, Edam cheese is named after the town where that semi-hard, yellow cow’s milk cheese is made. And Leiden, a city famous for having the oldest university in the Netherlands and for being the alma mater of the current Dutch King, is even more famous for its Leiden buttermilk cheese with cumin seeds. Cumin in cheese? You have to try it on your next sandwich! 

Speaking of eating, the Dutch will eat Gouda on bread for breakfast, Gouda on a baguette for lunch and Gouda on anything for dinner. As a bedtime snack, children often drink glass of milk with a wedge of Gouda because: Gouda is good.

Forget Green Bay Packer fans and every Wisconsinite, the Dutch are the original cheeseheads. Their affinity for cheese is not new. Cows have grazed Dutch pastures for centuries producing quality milk for quality cheeses. When the Dutch moved to America and established New Amsterdam in current Manhattan, they brought this passion for cheese with them. 

In fact Dutch cheese is the reason we have Yankees in the Empire State. After establishing an active colony at New Amsterdam complete with their Dutch farms, Dutch architecture and Dutch cheese, the British took control and renamed the area “New York”. Also the British created a nickname for the male Dutch colony settlers—they called them “Jan Kees”. “Jan” is Dutch for “John” and at the time “kees” was the Dutch spelling of “cheese”. In Dutch “Jan” is pronounced /Yan/ and “kees” is pronounced /keys/. This makes the nickname: /Yan-Kees/. Gradually “Yankee” grew from referring to the original Dutch settlers to New Yorkers, to all people from New York state, and now on the global stage to refer to any American overseas. 

Therefore we have the Dutch and British to thank for giving Americans a national nickname. But we have just the Dutch to thank for Gouda cheese. Gouda is good!