On a recent visit to the dairy wonderland of the Whole Foods cheese counter, I asked the kindly cheesemonger what the best deals were, and he replied by handing me a gold foil-wrapped block and saying, "This one's free."
The particular block of cheese had reached its sell-by date, so I could have it for no charge, and the UPC code had been scratched through with a green marker so the cashier would know not to ring it up. A deal by any standard, right?
What if I told you the gold wrapper concealed a rubbery brick of Limburger?
Known for a pungent smell akin to body odor, Limburger is so universally reviled for its stench that when Tom and Jerry use it torment each other in wordless cartoons, everybody gets the joke.
Having never actually eaten the stuff, I particularly appreciated the cheesemonger's gesture of introducing me to something new--and free. I hoped maybe Limburger had received the same bad rap as brussels sprouts, another dastardly food from childhood, which actually turned out to be pretty splendid. So I optimistically sliced into the Limburger.
Rather than a pleasant surprise, I received a new understanding of the expression "to cut the cheese." At the risk of looking a gift
cheese horse in the mouth, let me say that Limburger is gross. It stinks, the texture is flaccid and rubbery, and its rank flavor is so persistent that an entire sleeve of Club crackers is incapable of expunging it.
I noticed a lack of florid descriptions on the gold wrapper--no poetic blurbs extolling the product's earthy aroma and nutty texture. Well, no wonder. Just imagine some poor Helmut von Kopiereiter toiling away at Käse Communications GmbH trying to pen promotional copy for the Limburger account:
"This spreadable ripe cheese made of pasteurized milk, bacterium linens and microbial rennet, mit overtones of feet and the consistency of cold fatback, attracts mosquitoes and is best accompanied by spray deodorant and breath mints."
Nein. Limburger is no treat at any price. I'm still trying to forget the flavor.
Then again, maybe it was just past its sell-by date?