a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Aug, 2011

Easy peasy local cheesy

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Recipes and Food

I once knew someone who didn’t try “real” cheese until he moved out of the house. He grew up eating processed cheese slices and cheese in a jar. This depresses me, because I think life without cheese is a very sad one indeed.

If it’s individually sliced, or comes in a jar it can’t be properly called cheese. In fact, I’m amazed that food manufacturers like Kraft can get away with calling it cheese. It should be called a “cheese-like product,” or “imitation cheese” but I guess people wouldn’t want to buy it if it was deemed to be an imitation. It’s a cheese mockery!

Don’t get me wrong. I like fake cheese. It’s one of my vices. That gooey stuff that goes on nachos… the kind that comes in a jar (TOSTITOS® Salsa Con Queso is one brand) makes me weak in the knees. Which is why I never buy it. This is baaaad for our bodies. When I peer down into a half-full jar of the stuff I like to imagine it glommed on to my hips, forming a rippling pocketmarked jiggly texture under my skin. This is a pretty decent deterrent. (Hey, whatever works, right?)

As I type this I have to ask myself why. Why do I like this stuff? I can’t really answer that. Perhaps it’s a means to an end when I’m having a salt craving. Jarred cheese is a salt delivery mechanism.

I was reading the history of cheese entry on Wikipedia this morning, and something jumped out at me. Apparently Americans buy more processed cheese than “real” cheese. I bet we’re not far off in Canada either.

About a month ago I attended my first ever cheese-tasting event hosted by SavvyCompany and it made me realize that life is too short to be eating fake cheese. I came home and looked at that sad, hard, brick of “lite” brie in my fridge (can you believe that something like that exists?) and realized that I was changed forever.

I think if I’m going to indulge in cheese it’s better to eat the real thing.

For some reason we live in a society that has reimagined cheese, and not in a very good way either. (And this is coming from someone who’s crazy about cheese-flavoured anything. Cheezies, for example. Oy. I’m drooling as I write this. ) Cheese has been relegated to a seasoning, or flavouring for chips and other salty snacks, boxed macaroni, and grilled cheese sandwiches. This is not what cheese is supposed to be. It used to be a real food. Real cheese can stand on its own. Real cheese can be eaten alongside a bowl of grapes, half an apple, or a good hunk of bread as an accompaniment.

And that’s why I’ve been on a cheese spree. We’re lucky to be bordering a few great cheese-makin’ regions and actually have a lot of great cheeses to choose from. Next time you’re at the grocery store (Farm Boy is really good for this) look around for something that is made a little closer to home. I understand the hesitation. It’s intimidating, but you have to start somewhere. Ask the people behind the counter to point you in the right direction.

We talk about eating local – fruits! veggies! – but let’s not forget the local butchers, bakers, and especially the cheese makers.

This is a cheese I picked up at Farm Boy recently. You can probably see why it caught my eye, right? Is that not the cutest package ever?

Cutest cheese packaging EVER

Turns out I walked home with the 2004 Winner of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prize for Semi-Soft Cheeses (!). It was a lovely and mild cheese, and I carved a slice for myself every day until it was gone. Funny thing about real cheese, like fine chocolate and ice cream it takes a lot less of it to make you happy. What’s up with that?


What’s your feeling about cheese? What are your fave finds? I’d love to hear your recommendations.

9 Responses to "Easy peasy local cheesy"

1 | Giulia

August 3rd, 2011 at 10:42 am


Ok, so this really caught my attention. Having grown up in Switzerland I am amazed at the non-real cheese addiction here and the US. I love real Cheese, the softer and stinkier the better and I REALLY miss cheese made from unpasteurized milk. Josephs on Beechwood sells some Quebec cheeses made with unpasteurized milk – Yummm! As you say, a little goes a long way – that’s why those French stay slim and still eat real cheese.

2 | Samantha

August 3rd, 2011 at 10:50 am


This is a great post! Cheese is a regular conversation topic for me, as it’s everywhere and in everything…BUT unfortunately, I became lactose intolerant three years ago.
Since then, I had no choice but to eat goat cheese, old old old cheese, or purchase expensive dairy pills.
When I went to California, my aunt and uncle (wine connoisseurs), introduced me to international cheeses made from goat and sheep milk, and even old cheese I couldn’t stand the smell of, but the taste was impeccable.
Now, I’m a regular customer at the House of International Cheese (40 Byward Market). The first time I walked in, they understood my health condition, my unique taste and favourite flavours, and they were honest about quality and price (most cheese can be very expensive!)
A few recommendations are:
Crottin Maitre Seguin (semi-soft)
Chabis Feuille (wrapped in chestnut)
Garrotxa (semi-hard)
Chevre D’Or (just like cheddar!)

I’m still looking for delicious aged cheese! Preferably over 5 years old….

3 | Sally

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:06 pm


Cheese – mmm – if you are going to splurge, and at my age watching salt & fat is important, then splurge on the real thing. Don’t do it by halves! Fri indulgence is Italian Asiago on pizza – make sure it is the real Italian one. Once in a while a Bleu Ermite from Québec. Never a processed product will enter my domaine – it’s not worth the added salt & fat!

4 | Chantal

August 3rd, 2011 at 3:33 pm


I recently became an ONFC buying club member and I have been buying some organic raw cheddars. I love them. From Organic Meadow and another brand I can’t recall at the moment. My future sister-in-law just visited and brought with her some cheese she made herself!!!! I was in awe and it was sooooo good. It was made from raw milk. She also brought us a gallon of raw milk to drink. I was in heaven. I want to be her. I guess being her SIL will have to do :)

5 | Lynn

August 3rd, 2011 at 4:15 pm


Saint Paulin is my most favourite cheese EVAH. Friends of ours have a wine and cheese party every October and they go out of their way to gather fun and funky cheeses from around the area – they shop mostly at two cheese shops in the market downtown, and sometimes Farm Boy. I’ve tried dozens of cheeses at their party and Saint Paulin is hands down my most favourite. DELISH.

(If you want an invite to the cheese party I could arrange that.)

6 | Alison in Ottawa

August 3rd, 2011 at 5:42 pm


3 or 5 year old Gouda….Mmmm

7 | Connie

August 3rd, 2011 at 8:20 pm


Oh man, if you ever want to indulge, buy a rondele of Saint Andre cheese at Loblaws. Devour at room temp with some baguette. Soooooo delish!

8 | Emilie

August 3rd, 2011 at 10:02 pm


I love goat cheese and so I love the cheese from Fifthtown in Picton, Ontario. Great place, great cheeses, both soft and hard. Yum. You can buy it at Piggy Market in Westboro and at some Farm Boy locations and at Nicastros, sometimes (small batches, limited availability). Also, have you discovered the amazing Serious Cheese store? Moved from Ottawa South to Kanata, but that place is great if you like cheese.

9 | DaniGirl

August 6th, 2011 at 7:54 pm


Ooo, if you like the idea of local cheese, you should come out and visit the Manotick Village Butcher. They just started carrying a few lines of local cheeses, and I had the amazing pleasure of helping them select a few of the ones they’ll be carrying just by being in the right place at the right time one day last month. These are make-you-weak-in-the-knees they’re so good cheeses! You’ll never be able to look at that hunk of “lite” brie again!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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