You can have all your fancy foodie artisanal cheeses, I’m a Gibbsville guy. Pure Wisconsin cheese. And though a Wisconsinite completely weirded me out the first time I was ever offered one, I came to adore cheese curds. They remained a mystery to me, though, I had no idea how they came to be. Are they some off bi-product of cheese making? Do they fall upon Gibbsville like manna from heaven? Maybe it’s a high tech technology. Something as impenetrable as Sheepshead, full of digital tuffets and industrial weigh. Way. Whatever.
Then wow…I come across actual photographic evidence of the Gibbsville cheese curd machine! I’ve never seen it before. I’ve been to Gibbsville many times–it’s just past Sheboygan, by the big tree–but the cheese curd machine was hidden from view. I always figured it was huge and top secret, like the Hadron Collider. I guess not. Still, this picture is exciting. It’s so atomic age. Not a cow to be seen. Not even a bratwurst. Nor an unsmiling Norwegian working a butter churn. Maybe it’s Friday night and they’re all at Fish Fry. Even the Norwegians go to Fish Fry. They turn off the Lutheran for the night and join the Poles observing Lent. Another round for Olaf here! And ya still got some of dat schnapps dere? Schnapps? You betcha!
Sometimes I really miss Wisconsin, and I never even lived there.
One time we forgot to get cheese curds for the Christmas party and there was a riot.
The cheese curds came today. This happens every December. A UPS guy shows up with a box of cheese curds. They arrive from Wisconsin. I have no idea if they are eaten anywhere else but Wisconsin. And though I love them now, I had never heard of them until my first visit to Wisconsin in 1980. Have a cheese curd, the locals said. A what? A cheese curd. I politely declined. I had never heard of cheese curds. No one outside of Wisconsin has. (We’ve never heard of sheepshead, either). They looked wrong, these cheese colored smooth lumpy things. Imagine a coprolite made of cheddar. You eat them.
Then we ran into a lady from Wisconsin last Sunday who decided that it as not good enough to merely eat them. She decided to deep fry them. So the previous summer, she had brought the curds all they way (all the whey?) back from Appleton, on Lake Winnebago, just for the occasion. She carefully breaded each little curd, heated up a pot of oil to the deadly point, then plopped in the curds in one after another. That’s when it got weird. Rather than emerging as some kind of coronary inducing delicacy at the Wisconsin State Fair, the curds lost their shape completely, broke free of the breading and glopped together in some sort of weird cheese food blob. It floated atop the hot oil, formless and oozing and scary. It was disgusting, she said. But was the blob alive? I didn’t ask. Not all ladies from Wisconsin think like my wife from Wisconsin does. All this lady from Wisconsin did was dump the cheese blob down the garbage disposal, where the blades cut it into thousands of tiny slimy pieces and dumped it into the LA sewage system where, sanitized, it awaits El Niño and rebirth.
As for the curds we received today, we will serve them the way nature intended, cold and weird and vaguely disturbing. Tasty, though.
A cheese curd. Normally they come in little herds, packed in a vacuum sealed bag.