“What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?” ― Bertolt Brecht

The world is a wonderful place, and I am very much in favor of meeting as many people and seeing as many places as I can. But the world is also weird, and while I like to write about why you should learn languages and see crazy awesome things, I also can’t help but write about weird things that are a little closer to home. So I may end up writing about a series of things that I think are weird (or there may only be this one) which brings me to the point:

Processed cheese is one of the weirdest things I have ever encountered.

For anyone who missed the memo, most animals only drink milk while nursing after birth, and only from their own species. It’s okay if you didn’t know; it’s definitely something most of us take for granted. Our ability to tolerate milk beyond infancy is called “lactase persistence,” and is actually a mutation.

Cheese is made from milk*, of course, and strange in its own right. It’s produced in a variety of ways, mostly involving coagulation of the protein casein by acidifying the milk and adding the enzyme rennet. The process is very interesting and I’m actually tempted to try making me own. But if you’re like me, when you were reading about cheese you started thinking about how somebody actually figured out how to make cheese, and then ate it afterward. I mean really, who said, “As far as I can tell, this thing is spoiled and molded, but I’m gonna eat it anyway.” It’s easier to imagine someone drinking another animal’s milk, because we already knew what milk was**.

Processed cheese, on the other hand, took it to the next level. Most processed cheeses don’t even taste like actual cheese. To be fair, some processed cheese starts with actual cheese, but it’s also likely to be “dairy by-product,” which I won’t even go into in case I ruin your appetite. There are all sorts of food colorings and emulsifiers and oils that may go into your processed cheese.

I’m not trying to get you to stop eating processed cheese, I just can’t help but examine the process where we went from “I’m gonna drink this cow juice,” to “This cheese needs to be less like actual cheese.” I’m just saying, there’s a few hundred years of science and an actual genetic mutation at play. Basically, cheese is our own everyday miracle.

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*= If you didn’t know this one, you should feel bad.

**= Although I can’t imagine that first cow or goat reacted well.

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