Have We Been Missing Out on the Sexy Side of Cheese All This Time?
Exploring "the darker side" of dairy with Erika Kubick, the author of "Cheese Sex Death"
Erika Kubick isn’t just a turophile, she’s a full-on cheese devotee. With last year’s release of her book Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed, the Chicago native has taken her popular Cheese Church events on the road, preaching the Ten Commandments of cheese and offering a Cheese 101 sermon to those who believe in the word of curd.
While cheddar, chèvre and Camembert are now massive parts of Kubick’s life, this wasn’t always the case. The big moment came after she graduated from college with dual degrees in film production and English literature. Like many of us, Kubick found herself searching for a path, landing first in restaurants and then at a chef industry magazine, where she was given an assignment to create a chart on Spanish cheeses.
“They said, ‘The only thing you can’t talk about is Manchego, because everybody knows Manchego,’” she tells InsideHook. “And I was like, ‘I have no idea what that cheese is, but OK. I’ll avoid it.’”
A few hours of furious Googling later, and Kubick was hooked: not just on Manchego, but on the vast world of cheese.
“I just fell in love with the story of the individual cheeses, and how there are these villages where their whole culture revolves around creating these cheeses,” she says. “I felt like the sky opened up, like this is what you’re supposed to do. This is what you’re devoting your life to.”
Armed with advice from her mentor, fellow Midwesterner Tenaya Darlington, aka Madame Fromage, Kubick got a job at a local cheese counter and bought “a bunch of cheese books.” Soon, her passion became a blog, her blog became a book and her book became a way of life. (One you can follow on Instagram at @CheeseSexDeath.) For this self-professed goth, her mission is simple: relate “the sexiness and the darker side of cheese.”
“There are so many people that are punks or goths that fall into the cheese industry,” she says. “There’s just, like, this edginess about it.” But her understanding of cheese as it relates to both sex and death goes far deeper than mere branding.
“Cheese is a product of sex,” she says. “Animals lactate after they are impregnated and give birth.”
Cheese, she continues, has been used as a bloodless sacrifice since ancient Mesopotamia, associated with Inanna, the goddess of love, war and fertility. Moreover, cheese may be one of the best ways of reaping the benefits of our time on earth.
“Every time I’m looking at memento mori artwork, which is supposed to say, ‘Be virtuous on earth so that you can reach the afterlife,’ I kind of took a reverse approach,” she says. “Not like you shouldn’t be virtuous, but enjoy the earthly pleasures, because we don’t know if there is an afterlife.”
What better way to enjoy earthly pleasures than with cheese? For some ideas on where to start, we asked Kubick about some of the most notable bites, wedges and slices she’s ever ingested.
The most punk-rock cheese she’s ever tried…
“I’d probably say Blue Brain from Jumi Cheese. It’s this weird ball, and it has a blue mold on the outside. It looks fucked up when it’s aged. The rind just looks so gnarly, and it’s wrinkly and weird-looking, and then you cut it open, and inside it just looks so much less scary. It’s beautiful, buttery and soft, or sometimes when it’s younger it’s almost chalky, but it’s just a really interesting flavor. It’s really gnarly on the outside, and I think a lot of people would be afraid of it, but on the inside it’s much more approachable. And I find that to be the case with a lot of punks.”
The most goth cheese…
“I would say mimolette. I think mimolette is the best Halloween cheese. Of course, it’s got that glowing orange color. A lot of times, on the cheese counter, you’ll see that people put jack-o’-lantern stickers on it, so it actually looks like a jack-o’-lantern. I’ve even seen people carve it like a pumpkin before. But what’s so creepy about it is that it’s made with these little spider-like creatures called cheese mites, and they’re basically eating the mold and stuff on the outside of the cheese, but they also create this dimpled, cratered, moonlike appearance on it. Just imagining it in cellars with all the tiny bugs on top of it…like, that’s dark. But it’s also so delicious!”
The sexiest cheese…
“Well, that’s truly an impossible question. But I think that the sexiest cheese that I can think of right now is probably Rush Creek Reserve, from Uplands Cheese. They make this cheese that’s based on Vacherin Mont d’Or. It’s a soft-ripened cheese that’s wrapped in a band of spruce bark, and there’s something that’s kind of like corset vibes about that spruce bark. You know? It’s kind of holding all of her together. And the way that you eat the cheese: You cut off the top rind, you peel it back, and there’s just like the cheese oozing from the rind. It’s so sexy. And then you just dip things into the center. It’s like this little jacuzzi of cheese.”
The cheese that smells the most like death…
“Oh, Limburger, for sure. Especially if it’s a little overripe. I have a soft spot for Limburger. My grandfather was German, and he loved Limburger. It always makes me think of him. But it’s gross sometimes! I really like eating it on a sandwich, with rye bread and fresh red onion and mayonnaise or some butter, something to just add a little extra fat to soften the blow. Mark Twain had this passage about it in one of his books. There is this part where people think that there’s this dead body in a bag, because it smells so bad. And then it turns out it’s just Limburger.”
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