Five Reasons Why I’m Convinced That American Cheese is on the Road to Greatness
1. I CAN SEE IT HAPPENING
When we first opened Zingerman’s in 1982, we sold just a handful of American-made cheeses. Today, we turn away American cheeses that are better than most of what was available when we first opened. There are so many wonderful, hand-crafted cheeses being made in this country that we’re hard-pressed to keep our selection at a manageable level.
The energy, the interest, the commitment to better American cheese is all around me. I can see it in the cheesemakers. There’s more of them all the time, more committed to making the best-tasting cheese they can make. I can see it in the people who come to Zingerman’s to buy cheese. They’re inter- ested, they’re intrigued, they want to learn, they like to taste. They like to eat good cheese.
2. THE AMERICAN ABILITY TO CHANGE
As a nation, we often have a hard time com- ing to consensus. But once we decide that we’re going to do something, we do it faster than almost any people on earth. You can see it with American wines. Forty years ago, the French laughed at them. Today they sell our wines in Paris. American cheeses are on the road to greatness, too. And they’re moving fast.
3. THE AGE OF LIMITS IS UPON US
There’s a lot of talk these days of “American decline” the “end of an era.” H ow terrible it is that we have to “accept limits.” I beg to differ. Times change. And change can be very good thing. The truth is that we aren’t pioneers anymore. There are no more plains to cross. We can’t conquer nature. There is an age of new limits upon us. But as we accept these new limits of our lives, we are now free to look inward, to examine the spiritual, to embrace the smaller—but in some ways finer—things in life. Appreciating nature instead of trying to conquer it. Eating and enjoying great food is one of those things. Our fixation with making bigger cheeses is giving way to a commitment to making better cheeses. Quality can pass quantity as the measure of our success.
4. THE ECONOMY
It may well be that my generation and the generations which follow will not be able to afford to buy bigger houses or fancier cars than our parents did. But we can definitely eat better. Food is one of the most afford- able luxuries there is. We might not be able to afford a new Cadillac, but we can certain- ly savor a great cheddar or an exceptional hunk of Detroit Street Brick cheese.
5. ONCE YOU SHOW THEM PARIS IT’S HARD TO GET THEM BACK ON THE FARM
Lord knows, we’ve eaten a lot of mediocre food in this country in the last 50 years. But look around and you’ll see that better tasting, fresher, more flavorful food is appear- ing all around you. And once we get used to eating good food, we won’t want to go back. If you’ve come to love real Roquefort, you won’t go back to bags of “blue cheese crumbles.”