The Spanish eat cheese as an apertif. / sur

Cheesy notes

ANDREW J. LINN

In Spain cheese is eaten as an aperitif, not after a meal as is usual in the US and northern Europe. Occasionally, when cheese is ordered in a restaurant after a meal, eyebrows are raised by the serving staff, but not a word is spoken.

Stranger still if cheese biscuits are requested, since they don't exist (usually) and bread is the only option. Spaniards would be more surprised to learn that an entire meal may consist of cheese. However, there is a problem as far as eating cheese as an aperitif is concerned: it is very filling, while its usual co-aperitif, jamon de bellota, can be consumed endlessly with no appetite-dampening effects.

A recent ad-hoc survey of seven different nationalities, conducted by yours truly, revealed the following preferences: cheese sandwiches for breakfast (yes, really!); a couple of hours after finishing dinner, with wine of course; after the main course but prior to the dessert (the 'correct' option, often known as 'the French way'); on a hamburger (naturally); sprinkled on pasta (ditto).

Apparently, Stilton is becoming popular and good restaurants often have it available. Since Stilton without port is unthinkable, it could never be considered as anything but a substantial follow-up to a main course.

The Jewish people have a tough time though, as their law prohibits mixing dairy products with meat, so they must wait until it is estimated that the meat has been digested before tackling the cheese board. And of course, there are those killjoys who prefer to limit their cheese consumption for fear of exceeding their cholesterol limits.