Cheese Eating Etiquette

by Travis Loncar on September 29, 2011

Let’s be honest; there are those of us who care only that the cheese makes it to the mouth; the in-between is at best negligible.  As long as our taste buds are privy to the sensory stimulation provided by the unique texture, bold flavor, and warm aftertaste of a sharp cheddar or hickory swiss, we could care less. Cheese etiquette ceases to exist from the very moment the cheese is exposed to the air around us, the rich aroma wafting past our noses and begging that we indulge its source.  For many (myself included, at times), this is a pleasant reality.  ”Don’t worry.  Be hungry,” we say.

For some, though, proper etiquette is everything.  Whether it’s of the utmost pertinence to brunch meetings in the business setting or the decorum simply encapsulates the cheese-eating experience, it is with no fault or surprise that many factions of society abide by the unwritten laws of etiquette. And, believe it or not, there is a set of unwritten rules for cheese consumption!  However, what you find out might surprise you.

A Hands-On Approach to Eating Cheese

So, how do we go about our indulging?  Well, let’s begin our bestowment of propriety with a look at utilizable utensils in the world of cheese. In other words, the utensils that facilitate a proper (and fulfilling) cheese-eating experience.  As is foreshadowed by the above header, a feasible (and undeniably reasonable) way to eat your cheese is with your God-given utensils – your bare hands.

cheese eating etiquette


After a recursive, restroom-parting wash-down, your phalanges are often-times the most favorable option, in fact.  Why?  Well, apart from our natural inclinations to eat cheese with our fingers (which is not so inhumanely barbaric as you may have previously thought), using our fingers provides for the introduction of an additional sensory stimulation in the cheese-eating process – the sense of touch. In feeling the size, texture, and softness of each piece of cheese, we’re able to familiarize our palates and create cognitive-sensory associations with each cheese type.  As dry as this probably sounds, the implications are far from it.  Take a few seconds now to imagine transferring a piece of your favorite cheese from your fingers to your mouth.  You can almost taste it, right?

The Knife and the Fork of It

If you’ve ever eaten cheese with a knife or a fork, you must be a true barbarian. Just kidding, actually.  For the purpose of cheese consumption, using silverware is certainly no violation of etiquette.  Many times, the creamier cheese types are best eaten with the aid of a fork or a knife.  With the knife, in particular, we have a utensil that serves us cheese eaters numerous purposes, from the actual slicing of the cheese to being the vehicle that transports it to our mouths.  For instance, if you use a dinner knife, the blade is sharp enough to cut through creamy cheeses, yet dull enough to wrap your mouth around when eating the cheese.  Double-edged is not always a bad thing!

cheese etiquette


As far as bread and crackers go, there are various stances.  While their accompaniment with cheese is almost a certainty, etiquette brings to question the manner in which they’re consumed.  Now, I’ll be frank; I love a slice of my favorite cheese on a whole wheat cracker – no unwritten rule can govern or change that proclivity. However, in a public setting, it is often recommended that bread be used not as a canvas upon which to place our cheese, but rather a cleanser to go along with it.  Why?  While we observe that bread and cheese complement one another in taste, bread almost assuredly compromises the makeup of the cheese with which it’s paired.  Pretty crazy to think, I know. Something else worth remembering is that you should try to eat your cheeses in order of strength of taste.  Reserve your stronger cheeses for last, as they tend to linger and dominate anything milder after them.

Enjoyment Over Etiquette

All things considered, it’s most important that we actually enjoy our cheese-eating experience.  If you’re sacrificing a hunk of enjoyment for a sliver of etiquette, you’re experience is not going to be a fulfilling one.  Remember, in the right setting, practice proper etiquette, but not so much that it makes you miserable – or even worse, uncomfortable. Use your better judgement.  Should you lick the remaining creamy Epiosses cheese off of your desert plate at a new client meeting? Probably not.  But is it perfectly fine to eat the harder chunks of cheese with your fingers?  You bet.  As you’ve probably observed by now, most of the practices mandated by cheese eating etiquette coincide directly with those practiced habitually.  So, basically, keep up the good work, cheese eaters! Whether you’re sitting for a lunch-interview or lounging on your couch at home, make us proud!

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