Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Cheese Balls...

I have always found Christmas to be the most personalized of all of the holidays. Every family has its own hodge-podge amalgam of strange and wonderful traditions/rituals gathered over the course of their lifetimes. You know what I am talking about, Ma' and Da' put on viking helmets and watch Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas at exactly 7:23 on X-mas eve... Stuff like that. It doesn't really matter if the tradition is particularly enjoyable or meaningful. You do it just because. Family rituals are not good or bad, they just kind of 'are'.

For me, a yearly solstice punishment that I inflict upon my gut is the hallowed tradition of the "cheese ball." I take mine in the "Port Wine" variety and always from the Herkimer Cheese Co. (makers of the NY Cheddar Cheese Fudge that I just reviewed). Their slogan regarding cheese balls/logs is, "Log on... and have a (cheese) ball," which is amusing. Among the various blessings of living in Upstate NY is the fact that we have the Herkimer Cheese Co. which produces what I consider to be the Platonic ideal of a cheese ball/log.

Just look at the thing. A marvelous wonder of food dye and processed cheese food, all rolled up in some limp soggy walnut bits. I don't know why, but the thing represents vivid taste memories to me and screams X-Mas like no other food product. Do I know that the cheese ball is a wonder of modern science and artificial food production and probably has as many chemical compounds as your work-a-day can of shoe polish? Yes, of course. Does this stop me from buying one every year? No, of course not.

I have a bad habit of eating only the parts with the nuts which inevitably leaves a sad, weird, orange and crimson blob of cheese ball on the plate.

It is probably fairly amusing for my wife to see me hacking at the cheese ball every year. I never take it out of the fridge early enough to get all nice, soft, and warm so the cheese always sticks to the knife and gets lifted off of the plate en masse. When I do finally separate a bit of nut be-speckled substance from the ball, I never fail to break my cracker in half attempting to spread the stuff. I culminate the experience by shoving the entire cracker and cheese mess into my gob, grinning widely, and chewing obnoxiously while cracker crumbs rain from my mouth.

Anyhow, different strokes for different folks I guess. I don't care what anyone thinks, if I am having pre-Christmas snacks, then I am having some Herkimer cheese ball. Don't judge me. Take your brie en croute and stick it right in your ear. Haha, joking. As you know, I celebrate cheese in all of its form (processed or otherwise...). Not like my friend who exiled the Herkimer Cheese Fudge from her cheese plate and left it all lonely like in the corner. I completely understand her motives though, as the idea of Cheddar cheese fudge is a little disconcerting the first time you are confronted by it. You don't want the stuff stinking up all your other stinky cheeses...

Merry Christmas Eve and Waes Hail! my fellow Upstate NY countrymen! I expect that as part of your festivities tonight you will pour libations to Father Winter and ask for wind, snow, and bluster as the weather today feels un-natural here in our homeland. Have the Upstate winter gods of old abandoned us? I don't know, but the situation has me vaguely unsettled... The lack of snow portends strange and witchy things to come with the new year, me thinks... We shall see.


  1. Emmet Otter!!! Sorry -- I get excited whenever somebody mentions this most sacred of Xmas traditions. It's just not the holidays without seeing it.

    Also, I like cheese balls too, though I see them as more of a New Year's food. And of course, I scrape off the nut parts, too -- they're the best part! Though I don't think I knew we had a Herkimer cheese-ball-maker... I'll have to keep an eye out for that one (though the regular kind, not the port, thanks).

  2. So I know the cheese fudge leads with the cheese, but it has no business being on a cheese plate.

    This isn't me being squeamish or snobbish.

    It's just that it's not cheese.
    It's fudge.

    It's very misleading.

    If you are going to start putting fudge on cheese plates, then I also expect cupcakes, salt water taffy and mints.

  3. @Daniel B.

    Are you trying to interrupt my whimsy with your logic? I won't stand for it.

  4. i just wanted to let you know that i recently stumbled across your lovely blog via dave's cupboard, and as an upstater myself (rochester) i gotta say i love the concept, and i have enjoyed your humour and well-written posts. i am currently working my way through the older posts and am enjoying myself immensely. keep up the awesome work!


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