Cottage cheese, I can't quite quit you
I’ve written here before about the morning sex that is a breakfast cheese plate, and the alarming absence of cheese in the typical American breakfast. But we’ve been in a long-term relationship with a breakfast cheese before: cottage cheese, America’s only (lonely) breakfast curd. Ours was a love affair that lasted nearly 300 years, until one day we got bored. Cottage cheese, you’re just not who we are anymore. You’re an empty Erma Bombeck: homespun without the humor. A workhorse, practical—and yet we’ve no use for you anymore. Isn’t that ironic? In colonial America the lady of the “cottage” made you from a hodgepodge of fresh milk, not-so-fresh milk, and the whey leftover from butter making. You’re a simple cheese: neither pressed, shaped, nor aged. A woman sat on a tuffet and made you after churning butter all day. You’re first marriage material, all the way.
A chicken in every pot and cottage cheese in every icebox, that’s how it used to be, back when America was great. From colonial American homesteads to mid-century modern dinettes, you were our morning time ‘round the whey cheese. Nutritious, creamy, and dotted with twee balls of protein before “protein balls” were even a thing, you were our blank canvas, a cheese accepting of what it was given. We’ll never find another cheese that pairs so well with hamburger patties, cantaloupe, and kugel.
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You may be wondering how we could’ve abandoned you so thoughtlessly, parting so readily with something so singular. We threw the baby out with the bathwater—the curds out with the whey—and now we’ve no breakfast cheese at all, ho-hum. Sometimes I pick up the phone to call you. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
You made it too easy to leave. You’re a wallflower, but we prefer braggarts, breakfast burritos, and smoothies now. Humble, steadfast, soupy, limp—you’re dowdy AF, cottage cheese. Why don’t you put on some pineapple or something? You could’ve at least tried. Even kale pretends she doesn’t know you.
I want you to think about how you got here and look at cheddar (she’s certainly a popular breakfast cheese now, even if only as part of a BEC menage). Have you noticed she’s bold, sharp, assertive? Of course it’s true she’s been around since the 12th century (yes technically you’re much older and more experienced than her, but you’re just not a cheese that was meant to age).
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How unfortunate that you’re also a poor relation; some cheeses just can’t catch a break. Your stepsisters ricotta and fromage blanc have so many more admirers. It’s true they’re made a little differently, but they’re kitchen cheeses too, just like you, and yet they manage to put themselves out there. Have you considered trying OK Cottage?
Look at all the articles rooting for your comeback: “Can Nostalgia Redeem Cottage Cheese?” “Before and After: Cottage Cheese Gets a Sexy Makeover!” But these well-intentioned pieces miss the point. We’re through because you’re no longer who we want to be. You’re homey and accepting, but we want power, we want grace, we want chipotle cheddar in the face. The truth is, we’ve outgrown you, cottage cheese. Our new boo does yoga. Her name is Yogurt. She’s good for us, she’s smooth when we spoon. You did it, cottage yeezy!
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I think it’s important we acknowledge that you helped us survive some truly tough times: colonial life, independence, civil war. During the great wars you really blossomed, when the virtues you embody—home, hearth, simplicity—were exactly what we needed. You did it, cottage yeezy! And for that you were rewarded. What a compliment, to be the first thing we put in our mouths. Never forget that. We had a good run.
In our new and improved life (trust me, it’s totally better—we’re like really happy now), sometimes we think of you. Usually it’s when Yogurt gets one of her crazy ideas—like how she’ll be healthier if she goes back to full fat (imagine that). I guess what we mean to say is we miss you, cottage cheese. Homey, plain, old-fashioned, you were so uncomplicated. I mean that in the best possible way! We’ll always love you, cottage cheese. You know that, don’t you?
So I was thinking, do you have any plans tomorrow morning? I mean, it’d be really nice to see you, you know, if you were free.
This article originally appeared in Extra Crispy.