Easy Cheese

22nd January, 2009

I went to America in 1999, and one fateful evening I went to a grocery store with some friends, and that's when we found it. "It" was a can of spray cheese.

Disbelieving my eyes, I looked closer, and closer, and closer. Once my nose was upon the dire artefact, I had nothing left to do but utterly change my vision of reality: I had found Easy Cheese.

The thing suggested it was essentially cheese in a spray can. Being European, that was a wholly new concept to me, and I couldn't grasp it. How do you put cheese, a generally solid matter, into a can, from which you could spray the stuff? I pondered long and hard, and came to the conclusion that my friends and I had just found nothing less than the very end of civilisation.

Cheese, in Europe, is some age old tradition that moustached men in their 50's create in rustic little wooden and stone houses up some mountain or something. That's cheese. You can buy it at your grocery store, it comes wrapped in plastic, but it's solid. For at least 6 or 7 years, the mystery remained. Until one day...

One day, then, a friend of mine from St. Louis, Missouri, decided to send me some fudge, which I had never tasted, and since I had mentioned time and again my encounter with the end of civilisation, she thought she'd put a can of Easy Cheese in her package, along with some crackers, which I had never eaten before either.

I tried the fudge first. Just looking at that can of spray cheese made me nauseous. I generally dislike anything in a can, really, all the more so when the stuff inside isn't even supposed to be there in the first place. Fudge is delicious. For those of you who don't know it, it's chocolate something, extremely dense. You eat a handful of it and you're stuffed for the day. I forget exactly how it tastes or feels inside one's mouth, though. Maybe it was slightly melting on your tongue; at any rate, it was good stuff. It was fudging good.

My Missourian friend also sent a jar of peanut butter, which is available in my country, but I had never really had much of it. I had some hate/love relation to peanut butter at first, some taste you don't really like, but you want more anyway, like a sore tooth you need to pull at. I eventually really liked the stuff, but that's another topic entirely.

I handled the can of spray cheese as though it was some alien unhallowed item of horrendous blasphemy. I questioned the motives of the person who invented this, the person who one day thought, "Gee, cheese is good, but couldn't we possibly put it in a can and spray it?" Why would anyone even conceive of such an evil plan? My uneducated guess is that I don't have a clue, except that I suppose the idea wouldn't have emerged in the brain of a European, because that's not how we think of cheese at all. Again, for us, cheese is made by middle-aged men with moustaches that are extra long who wear white aprons and are a little bit overweight. They stir some giant pot of molten cheese - milk, in fact - and then they store big round chunks of cheese in dark caves, beside thousands of other identical big round chunks of cheese. That's cheese in the European mind.

So there was this can, and allegedly, there was cheese in it, and according to the legend, I could spray cheese out of it. Paraphrasing Mitch Hedberg, who said it better than I ever could, crackers is a product that has, on its very wrapping, suggestions as to what you could put on them; in other words, other products; and thus, crackers are a product that has no faith in itself. Liking just crackers is probably cheap as dirt. I mention crackers because that's what spray cheese is usually sprayed onto. That's why my friend from St. Louis sent some along.

It took me around 20 minutes to actually mouth some of that cheese. Seriously. First I analysed the appearance of the can, its opening, etc. I thought I was going to witness a miracle if I pressed on that thing like you do a whipped cream can. I took a cracker out, and prepared myself for the impossible.

I pressed, and sure enough, there was cheese on my cracker. Some yellow cheese at that. The yellowest cheese. I'd never seen cheese this yellow outside of cartoons. This neon-colour-like substance was much less solid than cheese habitually is, which was to be expected, seeing as it can be sprayed out of a can, for God's sake.

Apprehension was all the rage as I beheld this exotic amuse-gueule. I thought I might vomit. This wasn't cheese, this was an extra long line of snot at best. But I had gone this far, I had to continue, like a brave European crossing the culture boundaries of his native nation. You can't get Easy Cheese here unless you smuggle it in, an offence which is likely entirely legal.

Then, finally, I tasted the stuff. I was so repulsed by the appearance of this thing, from the can to the substance itself, that at first, I couldn't even think it might taste anything but synthetic chemical crap, so when I actually had it in my mouth, my brain couldn't neutrally analyse Easy Cheese's cheese. It took several mouthings to get past the biases of my European brain. But eventually I managed to realise it actually tasted good. It tasted just like the cheese you find in McDonald's cheeseburgers, which I worship.

The repugnant thing turned out to taste good. I had to deal with conflicting signals in my head about this. It took many a sprayed cracker. But then I really enjoyed it. In a couple of days I was coming to the end of the can.

The end of the can is actually quite some fun. Since it's pressured air that propulses the yellow ooze, when the stuff runs out, it sputters out too. Concretely, this means that you're pressing the can, and nothing comes out for a split second, and then, oh oh, miniature chunks of ooze come out at high speed, like a shrapnel explosion. Sounds fun, but by God is it messy. It also makes a little explosive sound. The image this gave me was that of a diminutive dwarf trying to shit through a painful constipation, his yellow turd breaking off into explosive segments of constelised microscopic bits of cheese. ("Constelised" doesn't exist, but I invent it right here, so it does now, feel free to use it and spread it, one day it'll be in the dictionary with this chapter as reference for origins, believe it!)

So there I was, eating the golden excrements of an imaginary dwarf whose sphincter was possessed with the nastiest constipation ever. And the sputtering out does sound like mini farts. This was just what you needed uh. Not only does it sound monstrous as a concept, Easy Cheese, but then it also makes fart sounds. Thing is, this did not deter me from eating more. This is revealing. It means I'm definitely crossing cultures there, I eat food that sounds like farts. And I like it! God have mercy...

Is there a moral to this story? Maybe you could say that like so many other American things, they look like ass on the outside, but if you care to try it, and I mean really try, you might find those things are good. Sure it looks like shit, sometimes, and sometimes it even farts, but at the core of what matters, it is good stuff! And don't ask me about how healthy Easy Cheese is, I suspect it may not be the American equivalent of a salad. But hey, health matters only to a point, everybody dies eventually, and nobody needs to be a healthy corpse in the end.