Some six or seven years ago there was debate about the most expensive cheese in the world. As I recall, there were two contenders that were up for the proverbial title. First up was Great Britain’s entry, “Stilton Gold.” This cheese was a cows milk white Stilton cheese whose curds were turned with (insert drum roll here) edible gold leaf and gold-flecked cinnamon schnapps. None (that I know of, anyway) came to the United States. Stilton can be excellent, blue or otherwise, but in this case it was the gold that added the higher value to the cheese.
The second cheese, well that’s a bit more unusual. It’s called Pule, from Serbia. Low yield milkings are done three times a day to create this cheese. Cheese made from…okay, do really want to know? Consider that if you log into Facebook right now you can find, enter a contest, and possibly win an Aston Martin customized by Daniel Craig (James Bond), and see lots of puppies – cute fluffy white ones! Then for only $10 you can see how you can stand to change the world. That, or you could still be reading this and learn that Pule is made from the milk of Balkan donkeys.
Yes, donkeys. It surprised me, too. Equally surprising was the cost. Ready? No, you can’t be. More than $600 per pound. So how are you feeling now? Can you pick a winner between Balkan Donkey milk cheese and golden-flecked Stilton cheese? Don’t ask me, as I have not tasted either cheese. Nor, for the record, did I contribute the $10 to Daniel Craig’s relevant social cause that could have won me an Aston Martin Convertible.
Some things, that no matter how close they may seem or how amazing they may be, are always just out of reach. Cheese should not be one of them. Real cheese, one not made with cellulose (wood pulp) or described as “imitation cheese process food,” can be more costly. In fact, we are seeing cheeses that are $30 or even $50 pound. That price scale was once unheard of in cheese. Thankfully, equally amazing tastes and quality are matched to the somewhat higher prices.
Even so, the higher price varieties (other than Donkey and Gold) may still have your attention. They may sound steep at first, but consider that a pound of cheese is much more than most people realize or will ever eat at a sitting. While you ponder that, know that it’s not just my passion for cheese talking. Specialized coffee is the equivalent of more than $60/gallon. How much do you drink in a day? Betting it’s not a gallon. Despite the high price, it has not stopped, slowed or deterred most people from specialized coffee. I mean have you ever been at a Starbucks without a line? Also consider specialty chocolate at more than $50/pound. Other than my son, who can say “no” to chocolate?
At the cheese venues that I frequent, I regularly hear, “For that price I should be getting the cow, too!” as people explore options and discuss pricing. Ouch. Do the smaller farms, creameries and caves that produce and craft cheese no longer matter? Does the quality and uniqueness of the cheese that we buy not matter more than price? Has our collective desire for price made cheese a commodity?
Gimmickery and rare exceptions aside, real cheese is a natural product that reflects the place(s) that it came from or the personality of those making it. As I see it, you should choose a cheese that your heart desires and leave the budget concerns for later. You likely don’t need a pound of it, the cow it came from or even gold flecked cheese to be happy.