Eat This

A Guide to British Cheese That Isn't Cheddar

Continuing our celebration of cheese week, we asked resident British person Gavin Cleaver to tell us about cheese in the U.K., because we are fascinated by a people who have no concept of smoked brisket. Plus, his answers are usually pretty strange entertaining. We have no idea how much of what he tells us is true.

While there is little more depressing than the cheese section at a Walmart dairy aisle (cheddar, mozzarella, more varieties of string cheese than are necessary or even feasible), the state of British cheese, much like the state of British cuisine, is not one of worldwide envy. As our national intake is 51 percent cheddar, a British invention no less, the impression of unbearable blandness is pretty much accurate in this case.

Given that French cheese is banned in the UK on the grounds of it being French and thus wrong and unclean, we are reduced to a number of variations on cheddar -- firm, mildly flavoured cheeses that are easy to melt and simple to understand. We don't get the more complex cheeses. Here are three variations on cheddar that bring back fond childhood memories for me, usually when combined with extremely plain white bread.

Red Leicester: A variation on cheddar cheese made using carrots, it's much like cheddar only slightly creamier and nuttier. Delightful in a sandwich accompanied with a similarly bland meat, perhaps some uncured ham. Nevertheless, preferring such a cheese over cheddar is enough to get you cast out of most UK social cliques on the grounds of extreme bad taste. Sometimes, it can be found combined with cheddar in string cheese, a dangerous experiment that got the creator exiled to France.

Double Gloucester: The most interesting fact about this cheese is that it is the subject of a quite bizarre British pastime, in which a wheel of cheese is thrown down a very steep hill, and people pursue it, only to fall over and die. As a former resident of Gloucester, I used to live quite near this annual madness, although it is no match for the other competition held that day, the World Shin-Kicking Championships. I only wish I was making this up, as that would imply I had a much better imagination than I actually do.

Wensleydale: A cheese actually quite far removed from cheddar, it was regarded as the product of a heathen mind and consumed only by dangerous lunatics, until Wallace and Gromit brought it to international fame by seemingly existing on a diet consisting solely of this one cheese. While that has not done their fame any harm, it does appear to have affected Wallace's ability to not fall over for more than six fucking seconds, requiring Gromit, who conversely appears to have been granted powers extraordinary for a dog, to save him from many hilarious scrapes. Somewhat sweeter and much crumblier, it is impossible to slice it in the clean way Wallace does, suggesting that he is in fact either a liar or clinically insane.

This is what happens when healthcare is free.