They aren’t nicknamed ‘cheeseheads’ for nothing – the Dutch are proud of their cheese. It’s right up there on the list of all things Dutch, along with tulips, clogs and windmills. In the UK, however, Dutch cheese doesn’t have quite the same following. The word “plastic” (gasp!) is even used to describe Gouda (‘goo-dah’) and Edam. It’s just not the same as Cheddar.
This appears to be a two-way street. A sentence containing both the words “English” and “cheese”, sounds like a joke here. Where “plastic” may have raised a gasp, the common opinion (one I’ve heard three times) of English cheese in the Netherlands really hurts: “Isn’t cheddar the cheesy square you get in a MacDonald’s hamburger?” (Ouch!) And what makes it even worse, is that this is an honest question. “NO IT’S NOT!”
There is clearly a difference of opinion. Dutch people swear Dutch cheese is better and English people believe the opposite. This may well have to be a question of agreeing to disagree, but it’s certainly something that needs further investigation.
The claim that Dutch cheese doesn’t have a patch on English cheese barely uttered, I was soon given a piece of boerenkaas or farmer’s cheese bought in a delicatessen in Amsterdam to put the record straight. It was delicious. It was hard and dark yellow, very mature and incredibly rich. Point proven, Dutch cheese can clearly be yummy – an opinion also shared by the rest of my family.
In my endeavour to demonstrate the yumminess of English cheese to the people of the Netherlands, I launched “Operation Cheese”. This started with importing mature Cheddar, Double Gloucester, Cheshire, normal Cheddar – to show it doesn’t have to be posh to be yummy – and Stilton. And despite the parallels drawn with coal being taken to Newcastle, they all went down very well! I have since spread the joys of Wensleydale (with and without cranberries), Red Leicester and Cornish Brie. The results aren’t yet in, but I’m feeling confident.
Although “Operation Cheese” could long continue, the population of the Netherlands is large and, when scanned, cheese in your hand luggage looks like a liquid, making you feel rather more like a smuggler than you had intended. Maybe it’s time to stop. After all, I think I’ve reached my goal – while a Dutch person may never say that English cheese is better, at least there are a few Dutch people out there that know it’s also delicious. And vice versa.
By Heather Bond