I have never tried limburger cheese. In fact, I have deliberately decided not to pursue this experience given my aversion to the cheese since learning about its smelly reputation as a child. With frequent references to limburger any time an unpleasant smell would fill the air over the years, I had come to understand limburger cheese was something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and was probably best avoid altogether. As a result, I never encountered limburger cheese during the first 30 years of my life, even when I encountered a rare instance of seeing the cheese for sale during the holiday season. From my perspective limburger and I were unlikely to ever have a direct meeting, and I was absolutely fine with that.
Of course, I knew my view on limburger was based on assumption and prejudgment, which made me rethink the idea of trying the food as I planned for my “I have never...” journey. Although it certainly isn’t as taboo as some of the other foods I have tried during the course of this year, I decided my first experience with Limburger cheese would be insightful enough to meet my “I have never...” criteria. In turn, I scrawled the idea of eating the cheese on my “I have never...” list with full intention of seeing if I can gain my first experience with limburger cheese around the Christmas holiday.
Eventually, this “I have never...” idea faded until I found the holiday season arriving in a hurry this year. In what seemed like a flash, the final days of summer breezed through autumn and brought the cold of winter, which left me facing the very real prospect of tracking down some limburger cheese. Although I was still hesitant to the idea, I decided I would set aside a “Tasty Tuesday’ in December to taste limburger cheese for the first time assuming I could locate some around town. Luckily, my recent trip to one of the top ten cheese stores in the nation, Fromagination, resulted in me successfully finding the one of only two Limburger cheeses manufactured in the United States, The Monroe Cheese Chalet Limburger. Upon finding the cheese in the store, my curiosity almost immediately directed me to try to give the Limburger a sniff, but the tightly wrapped, thick foil-lined paper and broad adhesive label surrounding it made it all but impossible to gather any aroma. With no more insight regarding what to expect from the cheese, I reluctantly purchased the small silver brick and prepared for my first encounter with Limburger on the next available “Tasty Tuesday.”
As a result, I found myself before a small plate of crackers and a brick of Limburger this evening. After a few minutes of mentally preparing myself for what I knew was going to be a somewhat unpleasant experience, I slowly began to relieve the cheese from its brightly wrapped casing. As I did, a smell comparable to sweaty socks freshly removed from tight footwear started to creep into the air. With each tug of the cheese wrapper the smell grew in intensity until I found myself surrounded by the smell of dirty feet as I sat before a cream-colored rectangular brick of Limburger and a line of onion and rye crackers.
The unrelenting smell of the Limburger caused me to stare at the brick of cheese for some time, wondering what I had got myself into. After several minutes of delay, I slowly convinced myself to dive into the experience in an effort to get it over with, which ultimately caused me to move into action. Anxious about the forthcoming experience, I slowly lifted my knife and started cutting a razor thin piece of the Limburger off of the block. As the knife drove deeper into the cheese I shook my head in disbelief and prepared for what I assumed would be one of the worst, albeit one of the most memorable food experiences of my “I have never...” journey. Then, with a twist of my knife I freed a chunk of the Limburger from the block and raised it before my face. Realizing I was at the point of no return, I closed my eyes and dropped the cheese into my mouth.
|The first sniff...|
Less than a second after the Limburger hit my tongue I felt the wince that had crossed my face in anticipation change to a look of surprised delight. A creamy flavor blending characteristics of fresh parmesan and the bite of aged cheddar filled my mouth as I chewed; causing the scent of foot odor that had filled the air moments prior to all but disappear. Despite Limburger’s reputation and my fear of the flavor that would accompany such a notoriously smelly food, the taste was one of the most distinct and delightful cheeses I had experienced in some time. In a state of shock I pulled back from the plate and turned my head toward Rachael, who was standing watching on with a concerned look on her face. “This is actually really good!” I said in an obvious state of astonishment. “I mean, it’s really good!”
|Down the hatch!|
In disbelief, Rachael offered a doubtful comment as she reached for the plate and broke off a small piece of the cheese. She promptly lifted the cheese to her mouth and but down, which sent a shudder across her upper body. “No... No, it’s not,” she said swallowing the morsel. “It tastes like it smells... Like dirty socks.” A bit surprised by the disparity between our experiences, I turned back to the cheese and cut off another piece. Almost expecting my second taste to offer a disappointing result comparable to Rachael’s experience, I bit down and readily chewed through the Limburger’s soft body. Again, the full, sharp, and delicious flavor I encountered moments earlier hit my tongue, which sent a smile across my face. “Well, it tastes good to me!” I said with a grin. Firing back a quick reply, Rachael shrugged and said, “I guess there’s just more for you then.” Her comment was spot on, and to my amazement, I wasn’t complaining about that reality.
Over the course of the next 30 minutes, I happily nibbled away at the Limburger and crackers until nearly a third of the brick had disappeared. Upon realizing the amount of cheese I had consumed, I decided it was time to put the Limburger away and return to it as a nice snack in the future. As I cleaned up, I thought about the vast rift between my expectations leading into tonight’s “I have never...” event and my actual experience with Limburger cheese. It was clear my assumptions and preconceptions had gotten in the way of me gaining a positive experience earlier in my life, which wasn’t the first time that had occurred lately. As someone that generally likes to think I keep an open mind regarding new experiences, experiences like today make me realize I still have work to do in that regard. Considering how much I liked Limburger, it’s clear my notions about things I have yet to experience only serve to hold me back from discovering some incredible things. With four months left in my “I have never...” journey, that means I have a lot of work to do to uncover those amazing things left undiscovered, but if those experiences are anything like today I’ll come away with a list of new experiences even more amazing than I could have ever expected.