In our series on Canadian Cheese, cheese lover Ashley Linkletter explores why now's the time to get excited about Canadian cheese. Cheddar is a classic lunch box staple but let Ashley inspire you to try some new cheeses at lunch, with tips pairing cheese with tasty accompaniments, cheese storage and, of course, being courteous of co-workers!
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If you love cheese but regularly opt for a lacklustre brown bag lunch, or have fallen into the habit of paying $10 a day for a disappointing salad, it’s time to reconsider the role a small wedge of brie or a chunk of aged cheddar could potentially play in your lunchtime routine.
Cheese and Your Health
Cheese has been enjoying an affirming moment in the spotlight this past year, thanks to new reports that this once-controversial dairy product may have more health benefits than once thought. These include the potential to reduce heart disease, high blood pressure, and inflammation. Cheese is rich in protein, vitamins B12 and D, calcium, and naturally-occurring probiotics. When cheese is eaten with portion sizes in mind it can be a healthy addition to your lunchtime routine.
A Brief Note on Cheese and Common Courtesy in the Office
If you eat your lunch in a small, enclosed space, it’s probably wise to leave the ultra-stinky cheeses at home. While the smell of a truly funky blue or sticky washed-rind cheese might make you swoon, chances are your co-workers will be less enthusiastic about such an overpowering aroma. Likewise, don’t send your kids to school with a wedge of super smelly cheese (even if they love strong cheeses).
Storing Cheeses for Lunch
My new favourite way to transport cheese is to wrap it up in Abeego reusable beeswax sheets. The beeswax lets the cheese breathe and the slight rigidity of the material helps the cheese keep its shape. If you’re bringing a wedge of soft cheese wrapped in plastic or parchment, I recommend placing it in a jar or container with a sealed lid to prevent any accidents. A totally smashed piece of soft cheese is still delicious, but not as pleasing to the eye.
>Many companies are also starting to make single serving versions of their cheese (I love the miniature OKA cheeses and aged Balderson cheddar). These are perfect for grab-and-go snacks and school lunches.
Cheese as a Focal Point for Lunch and Pairings
When I worked at les amis du FROMAGE in Vancouver, it was common practice for the staff to cut off a slice of whatever was extra gorgeous that day and eat it with a piece of baguette, no other accompaniments needed. While this was a fantastic way to spend a lunch break, I suggest packing a few other foods from more than one food group for optimal nutrition and variation.
Bread and Crackers
Good quality or homemade bread, rye crisps, seed crackers, rice cakes, and any other substantial vehicle you can think of for getting the cheese into your mouth in the tastiest way possible is always a boon for lunches. Keep this important component packed separate from any damp ingredients (such as sliced fruit or veggies) to avoid a soggy midday disappointment.
Jams, jellies, chutney, antipasto, and nut butters will always liven up even the most ordinary of cheeses. If you can find them, the tiny jars or plastic packs that are popular in hotel buffets and restaurants are especially useful (and the jars can be washed and refilled).
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables add fibre and plenty of flavour while being an endlessly customizable addition to a personalized cheese plate. Salads can be an excellent way to show off fresh cheeses, crumbled blue cheese, grated firm cheeses, or a small chunk of feta cheese. For best results, add the cheese just before applying the dressing and tossing. Dried fruits can be tossed in a container or resealable bag and snacked on throughout the day, pairing them with thin slices of cheeses and optional nuts or seeds.
Meats and Pâté
Roasted meat or poultry, charcuterie, and pâté are optimal accompaniments to pair with cheese at lunchtime. If using store-bought charcuterie, make sure you check sodium levels on the packaging as cheese is also considered a high-sodium product.
Other fun (and tasty!) extras to consider include:
- Pickled vegetables
- Roasted red peppers
- Marinated artichokes
- Sliced eggs
- Fresh herbs (for mixing with soft fresh cheeses)
- Fruit leather
- Candied citrus peel
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- Canadian Cheese: Creating the Perfect Cheese Plate