When I hear the word cheese, I conjure up images of friends smiling at the camera for a photo opp, or more likely than the former, a cheese board of camembert, comté and roquefort with a bottle (it’s always debatable whether it’s red or white, isn’t it?). French-ness and cheese just seem to be a couple made in heaven that lives happily ever after.
Well it wasn’t until I came here that I learnt about Colombians’ obsession with cheese. While the French eat cheese on its own as dessert, snack, sandwich filling, or at most an ingredient in a savoury dish, Colombians are champions in their ultra-high ‘utilisation’ of the dairy stuff. In fact, they can probably take on the title to be the second greatest cheese-lover in the world. Although just to clarify, their contention does not lie in their variety of cheese. They do not have hundreds of them. They only have a few types (their own version of ‘mozzarella’, its name with very little resemblance of the actual mozzarella, and a few other types of fatty, creamy white cheese.
Here, cheese is taken onto a totally imaginative realm. It’s used as a topping of their ubiquitous fruit salads; as a dessert with figs, peach or arequipe (the Colombian caramel), in between a plantain, in a chocolate completo (very warming and apt for the capital’s highland weather, but imagine how I felt, having melty cheese at the bottom of my hot chocolate as the first drink when I just set foot in the country); and even with ice-cream..
The only bit of consolation is that the cheese + whatever custom here tastes MUCH better than it sounds, since the cheese here is rather tasteless, so it’s like adding protein powder to your food, really.. Try it for yourself. Tell me what you think!