A very brief account of what happens when you mess with the laws of nature. Enjoy.
Culinary Speed Bumps in the Road of Life and the Cultural Ramifications of Chocolate Cheese or Lost in Translation: A Guide to Surviving Really Really Bad Ideas
My guard went up instantly, and not without reason. The garishly colored sign posted in front of my favorite Costa Rican milk shake stand declared “A New Way to Enjoy Your Cheese” in the most eloquent Spanish I imagine they could find. Up until this very moment I had never even considered a new way to enjoy cheese even possible much less needed. I mean, it’s a perfect food already right? I was always the first to joke that cheese was perfect with everything but I was now very quickly regretting any glib cracks I had made in the past. I scanned the panel and read “Cheese Delicately Flavored with Chocolate” in the foreground over an image of rolling verdant pastureland and bucolic cattle grazing under lazy drifting clouds. Considering Spanish is not my first language, I had one of those cartoon-esque double takes, squeakily rubbing my eyes as I confirmed in fact that I had not misread anything. Dear God…I hadn’t.
Food, and more specifically eating, is an amazing thing; an overwhelmingly yet often overlooked sensual experience dictated by our own cultures, controlled by our own personal tastes and constantly compared to and even acting as a rival to sex. From the day we are born, we are told when to eat, what to eat and how we should eat it and aside from the tortured few who produce dishes with wasabi flavored foam (or anything on a menu in quotation marks for that matter), the majority of us don’t really question those rules.
But at what point did Americans get to have Apple Pie as their national dish while the Chinese got stuck with Thousand Year Eggs, a duck egg rolled in ash and lime and buried in the back yard for 100 days until the white coagulates black and jellied in the shell? As strangers, our first reaction when we come across little cultural gems like this is revulsion, cold sweats and maybe a touch of dry heaving most likely forgetting that to others, our everyday food could be just as exotic and quite possibly as disgusting sounding. Hot dogs…point and case.
So in my fledgling intercultural understanding, I figured I might need to step up, walk the walk, and at least try the most recent and completely unnecessary improvement on cheese before I declare it unfit for consumption. So, as I stood there eyeing the tray of now more-than-room temperature samples, my palms began to twitch just a bit in that “oh crap” clammy kind of way and the young girl in charge of manning the display of slightly sweating cubes of brown “cheese” wandered over.
“Would you like to try our new product?” she asked me with an enthusiastic smile. I told her I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. She repeated herself, a little slower this time, most likely guessing that the flustered gringo in front of her didn’t understand Spanish properly and needed a little help. I assuaged her doubts as I nabbed up a caramel colored chunk of choco-cheese and popped it in my mouth before I could justify running to the car.
For those first few seconds, I was ok as my brain told me “Mmmm Chocolate” but then it got confused somewhere in between chews and the message very quickly became “Oh no it ain’t chocolate. It’s cheeeeeese.” The cute sample girl beamed on with a broad smile that said one of two things: “Heh heh. I tried it too…pretty nasty, huh?” or “Mmmm chocolate cheese” but I really couldn’t tell as the tears began to well up and blur my vision. It was absolutely all I could do to get that tiny treat down and it took every ounce of my being to kindly thank her before briskly walking out into the rain feeling cheated, dejected and just down right bummed out.
I had done what I was morally obligated to do hadn’t I? Don’t knock until you try it, RIGHT?! In all of my own internal hemming and hawing about trying new things and having an open mind when it comes to culinary experiences, I overlooked a huge key point: You don’t always have to try something to determine if it’s not really a good idea. Many times you can take a quick look and use a little reasoning (read “common sense”) to make a sound decision. These things most likely can be safely avoided: experimental parachute testing, crocodile wrangling, crack cocaine, and cheese delicately flavored with chocolate.