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The Cheese Stands Alone

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for April 2006

There are, of course, many reasons to visit Europe—but one strong attraction or me has always been the amazing world of European cheese. When I was in Canada last summer, we stopped at a cheese shop on our last day and brought back quite a bit.

And then, right around that time, live-food cheeses started showing up in my local Massachusetts supermarket! In fact, that market (Stop & Shop) opened up a custom cheese counter featuring a wide range of artesenal cheeses from around the world, cut to order and generally at much lower prices than places like Whole Foods. Apparently the old law prohibiting their import has been done away with and you can get these cheeses in the US.

If you think cheese is supermarket cheddar or American—or even if you've had a good brie or chevre but nothing more exotic—open your eyes and taste buds to the infinite worlds out there. Most good cheese shops and cheese departments will let you sample a bit, so you can develop your own preferences. You can find great cheeses sometimes for as little as $7 a pound, on up to about $30—but again, you can sample at no charge, and a little goes a long way. So splurge a little and buy, ay, a quarter-=pound at a time of some cheeses in the $7-$12 range.

Live-food cheeses, with their strong flavors and high butterfat content, are an acquired taste. In Europe, an assortment of cheeses is often served as dessert—and a little goes a long way. One small piece of two or three different cheeses can feel deeply satisfying after a meal.

In the life isn't always fair department—just a few months after these cheese departments started to appear in my local area, my doctor said I had to cut back on cholesterol. Aaaugh! I haven't eliminated cheese completely, but I've switched to the European style. Instead of a cheese sandwich, I'll have a tiny piece of some superb cheese at the end of dinner. And it actually satisfies my craving.

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