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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 2-25-22 – Behold the Power of Cheese

“Cheese is all about the dark side of life" ― Michael Pollan

I generally cover a lot of ground with my weekly gratitude post. Some weeks fairly weighty issues.

Other weeks, not so much. This is not one of those weeks. I write these posts for three reasons. One, I have found that reflecting on things I am grateful for is good for my sense of wellbeing, writing it out is even better. Two, I have found I enjoy writing immensely, and the more I practice it, the more I learn. Third, I write at times for my own amusement. This post is centered on reason three, yet when I started to write about it, I found out that cheese had an essential role in human evolution. We owe so much to cheese even if Michael Pollen considers it “as from the dark side.” Lighten up Mr. Pollan!

I love cheese. We are learning that cheese (and beer) has been a lifestyle choice for at least the last 2,700 years. I have a visual of our long-gone ancestors in prehistory toiling in the salt mines of Austria, eating blue cheese and drinking beer. I am personally sticking with the blue; it causes less harm to me and the people around me than if I added the lager. Trust me on this. But it does make our ancestors a lot more relatable. Cheese and beer is still a way of life, not just here in the US of A, but around the world.

To make cheese, our ancient ancestors had to figure out fermentation. I found a scholarly article that describes the vast diversification of cheese fermentation that has evolved over time. Which bacteria and molds growing on cheese changes how each one tastes, the texture and even health benefits. Who knew that cheese could improve gut and even bone health! This article suggests that drinking of milk and early food manipulation including the curdling of cheese started early in the neolithic period, around 6,000 years ago. Lactose tolerance gave some of us a genetic advantage! I imagine that some of those who experienced intolerance still partook of the cheese. Sometimes in life, one just does what one wants to do. Like eating cheese!

Cheeses need to be preserved or they face extinction. Oh the humanity. Save our cheeses!

So much cheese, so little time. 1,832 varieties on this web site alone! And to consider that our parents perceived Velveeta (invented in 1918) as worthy of our palates. Maybe I have tried 200 tops, I won’t even count Velveeta or Kraft singles, these are simply not cheese. To think, it is possible I have not yet experienced my favorite cheese! The finest cheese in 2021 according to this CNN piece is a soft rind Spanish cheese called Olavidia. It is available for about 15 pounds or 20 bucks. That seems relatively accessible for most of us to try what is considered the finest sample of cheese on the planet. Count me in! Something to be grateful for! I draw the line at cheese cultured from armpits of British celebrities. Not only is it a thing, but there was actually an exhibit on it at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Thanks, but no thanks. I will cull my “to try” list down by one. I have thousands of other options. Keep the armpit cheese.

They say cheese acts like an opioid in the brain. This explains a lot. As this article from Forbes notes, cheese contains casomorphins which are opioid peptides. I know exactly how much cheese and which varieties there are in my fridge at this very moment. Is there a checklist for having a problem? My name is Bill, and I have had cheese today, and it is not impacting my other life areas...I found a number of articles talking about the psychoactive nature of cheese and comparing it to crack cocaine, including this one in the LA Times. I am in a position to say that it is not a fair comparison. While cheese is indeed enjoyable, I have yet to risk my life to get it, other than a few snowstorm grocery store runs, so I it is not an apt comparison. I like to drive in snow. All this may read as rationalization.

One of the fun things about traveling is trying the local cheeses. Julie and I loved Orkney Cheddar in northern Scotland, and the stinky cheeses of Normandy France were some of the most amazing in the world is produced. A few years back, we drove up the Oregon and Washington coast and the Tillamook cheese factory was a place of sheer joy. I ate the samples. Like a few other things, each culture and region around the world has its own regional cheese treasures. I am grateful for our diversity in all things, including cheese. Do we not associate favorite places and local foods? I certainly do! If you have a favorite local cheese, please share it with me!

This gratitude Friday, I am grateful for cheese. I am not the only one who thinks so! I found this blog post devoted to cheese gratitude! Life is short, eat the cheese! Try a new one! Go buy an old favorite! To me, there are few things as pleasurable is a good hunk of bread and a stinky camembert. I wish all who read this a day in which you get to experience a favorite cheese. Life is made up of such simple pleasures.

What are you grateful for today?

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