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Cheese before the mains, or after? How about both?

Here in the USA we just wrapped up Thanksgiving and all across Christendom there will be Adventitious celebrations over the next few weeks - all of which means a whole lot of cheese plates set out for noshing along with dips and fanned-out crackers while guests bide their time until called to the dinner table -- is this the right time for the cheese course, or do you favor saving the cheese for after the main dishes have been downed?

Is a cheese course too much of an affectation if you aren't of French extraction? This might not seem so important except that I am keeping score. /s

This would be on mind because of the feasting season anyway, but it so happens that I just tucked into some Cathedral City mature white cheddar, which claims to be the most popular cheddar in the UK, now available in your local US hypermarché.

Posted by
5453 posts

I would never think to serve cheese before a meal.

Cheese courses are also a British tradition, but whereas the French serve cheese then desert, us Brits serve it at the end of the meal with a glass of port.

I am from Lancashire - a lump of cheese is traditionally served with apple pie - modern practices there sometimes has cheese in the pastry.

Cathedral City is available in all supermarkets in the U.K. and they must sell tons of the stuff every day. There is some in my fridge. It’s typical mass produced cheese and bears no resemblance to a good cheddar from an artisan cheese maker (but four times the price). It’s not something I would put on a cheese board at Christmas time.

Posted by
7415 posts

Is a cheese course too much of an affectation if you aren't of French extraction? This might not seem so important except that I am keeping score.

Hahahahahaha excellent

Posted by
4575 posts

Cheese definitely should be served at the end of the meal. It's a common misconception that the French have the largest range of cheeses however it's actually the British that do, 350 more different varieties than the French although it's fair to say that they do consume more than the Brits.

I'm not a fan of Cathedral City, it's a mass produced cheese that has no character, I much prefer Waitrose's vintage Cornish Cruncher.

Posted by
3590 posts

It depends where... cheese at the start of a meal is quite standard in Portugal and Spain in my experience, and it works quite well with hard, salty cheese!

Posted by
2394 posts

No cheese before dinner or after. Sorry. Cheese is for pizza. But my dad, of English descent, always puts cheese on his apple pie, has done since he was a kid, even though his family emigrated in the 1800’s. Some traditions never die.

Posted by
1512 posts

And then there are those of us who are dairy sensitive. A little goat or sheep cheese is ok but not cow cheese. While I may serve a cow cheese based dip as an appetizer for company, I reserve my tummy ache for cheese dripping off my pizza.

So UK people, what do you serve as an appetizer?

Posted by
2176 posts

Cheese before, cheese during, and cheese after. Cheese for breakfast, cheese for lunch, cheese for supper. Mmmmm cheese...

But if you're keeping score, cheese has always been more of an appetizer at our house.

Posted by
3048 posts

And cheese is often a 3rd meal, not course, at our home. We tend to eat our largest meal at lunchtime then if we are hungry in the evening will have some fruit, cheese and crackers. At the moment we have some Wensleydale, Brie Delice de Bourgogne, Mt. Tam California goat cheese and Spanish Manchego to choose from. At a party or winery we’ll nibble cheeses as an only course too.

Posted by
306 posts

You could serve gougere as an appetizer. That way, you can act like the French but also get some cheese in before a proper cheese course. Or, you could just do what you want!

Posted by
9989 posts

Cheese before, cheese during, and cheese after. Cheese for breakfast, cheese for lunch, cheese for supper. Mmmmm cheese...

My thoughts entirely. Although I do love a cheese course at a fancy schmancy restaurant that knows what they are doing.

Posted by
3202 posts

I don't think a cheese course is appropriate as an appetizer, before a main course at dinner. At the end of a meal, yes. Before, after, or instead of dessert. Or with dessert- we also traditionally serve apple pie with a nice aged cheddar (our SIL thought this was bizarre until he tried it, LOL).

But that's totally different than including a cheese board as part of a charcuterie and other food offerings for a gathering that doesn't include a sit down meal.

Posted by
5453 posts

English nibbles? Usually cold so they can be prepared in advance and left for people to help themselves.

I would offer olives, dip(s) or sour cream or tzatziki with raw veg and tortilla chips or crisps. I don’t eat nuts, but if I did, I would include them. There’s no point filling up with nibbles before a meal.

For a 70s throwback, there is always cheese, pineapple and pickled onions on a cocktail stick! Never crackers - that’s for the end of the meal.

At Christmas I may cheat and buy some ready made finger food such as sesame toasts, prawns in filo pastry and mini quiches etc served hot. Dates too.

Posted by
27413 posts

I prefer cheese at tea. (define "at tea" as at tea-time, not for tea, the evening meal in many parts of the country (not London))

Posted by
1117 posts

Depends on the situation.

For everyday (cold) meals, as a main course on an open sandwich.

For a fancy meal, we have the saying "Cheese closes the stomach". So, obviously after and not before the meal.

For a party situation independently of a meal, on toothpicks with grapes or olives, the retro style classic being the hedgehog. :-)

Posted by
1237 posts

I think that in Suburban North America, Cheese and Crackers are considered an appetizer. I serve them in the living room to keep my brother in law out of my way when I'm trying to cook. Also, microwavable Costco appetizers of all kinds are great! I love time savers. My Husband and I are good enough home cooks that we don't miss going out.

Posted by
27413 posts

how is the score sheet looking, avirosemail? anybody need a late substitution to get their team over the line?

Posted by
1117 posts

I think that in Suburban North America, Cheese and Crackers are
considered an appetizer.

In Suburban North America, you also have spray cheese... does that qualify? ;-)

Posted by
1237 posts

Anna: Spray Cheese makes it easy to decorate Pretzels too!

Posted by
883 posts

I was against cheese and crackers pre meal, but then it hit me. What would Wallace and Gromit do?

Posted by
1117 posts

Spray Cheese makes it easy to decorate Pretzels too!

Now doesn't that sound delicious... You should start a business with that in Bavaria. Or better yet, in France. :D

Posted by
3048 posts

Haha ianandjulie that’s where I first learned about Wensleydale, Wallace and Gromit!

Posted by
27413 posts

I've been enjoying a newish flavour of Wensleydale - a very moorish Mango and Ginger. Seriously good with such a good texture.

Posted by
7415 posts

Did Allan’s paean to cheese put any other Americans of a certain age in mind of the old TV advert Behold, the POWER of CHEEEEEEESE?????

Posted by
1834 posts

I will briefly interject to concede that it isn't hard to persuade me that England is cheesier than France, as JC helpfully points out.

I also note that I generally do not find that cheese closes my stomach -- Good bread and cheese get my appetite into a higher gear!

Some time back in this section of the forum we had a lengthy thread on liqueurs as aperitifs and digestifs and one of the contributors insisted that a dram (I forget which kind in particular) was supposed to pique the appetite and the quaint/antiquated way in which they phrased their thinking actually got me thinking about starters/appetizers/entrees more -- when I was younger I didn't need any help getting started (so-to-speak) so I didn't appreciate this aspect of first courses. Now that I'm no longer so quick on the draw (as-it-were) I have more respect, and time, for a savory pick-me-up. Like a ripe cheese named after a saint. /s

Posted by
3202 posts

Is there any discernible actual cheese in spray cheese? Or is it just watered down Velveeta?

Posted by
774 posts

If someone asked after the propriety of serving Champagne, the answer would be simple:”Yes, of course, yes! Before, during, and after any and all meals, at any time of day, for any reason: breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, supper, snacks, and, should go without saying, anytime one’s lover is involved.”
Feel the same way about cheeses? I certainly do. Popping a bottle of bubbles and cutting into a lovely perry-washed rind Stinking Bishop as I post.

Posted by
1834 posts

@bogiesan, I'm going to have to disagree about Champagne --
for instance, on the linoleum-floored aisle of a BevMo underneath fluorescent lighting with public address messages booming on about discounted margarita mix is a terrible time to open a bottle of bubbly.

Posted by
474 posts

Cheese before, cheese during, and cheese after. Cheese for breakfast, cheese for lunch, cheese for supper. Mmmmm cheese...

This is the correct answer.

Seriously, though... why not cheese all the time? I live in a city that isn't quite the culinary capital of anywhere at all, but recently found myself up in Portland, OR eating at a couple of restaurants built around serving up fancy charcuterie boards. That's your meal! A buncha charcuterie boards for everyone at the table to pick at until content. The meats were the focus, but cheese also important. And I think I could manage living life that way, surviving on a charcuterie board diet.

Posted by
190 posts

This is a very cheesy conversation ;) and also a very enjoyable read, thanks for the thought provoking prompt Avi!

Ahh, cheese, love it, anytime, anywhere … I am also on board with Allan of Calgary’s evaluation.

Posted by
5493 posts

all across Christendom there will be Adventitious celebrations over the next few weeks

With that in mind, some would say that Christmas is the time for Cheeses of Nazareth (say that out loud). 😊