This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
As generally used, cheese is neither an inexpensive nor an especially healthful food. Tagging along as the final course at dinner, it is usually a superfluous expense and a frequent cause of indigestion.
While it does contain certain bacteria that have the power of stimulating the digestive juices, the artificial effort ceases before the cheese itself can be acted upon - the consequent digestive torpor resulting in flatulence and, often, severe pain. This is why cheese, when served with pie, frequently incites a feeling of heaviness in the stomach that is credited to some other cause.
Of all the foods grouped under the term "meats and meat substitutes," or proteins, cheese is the most compact and concentrated. It contains no cellulose, no connective tissue and no bone to separate the particles of nourishment, and unless it is combined with, or accompanied by, some coarse grain or vegetable, it is very indigestible, because the individual in the effort to obtain enough bulk to overcome hunger is liable to overeat.
This same concentration, however, makes cheese an economical food, because it contains absolutely no waste, and when it is remembered, for instance, that one pound of ordinary cheese contains approximately all the casein (protein) and fat in a gallon of milk, its nutritive value is indisputable. Authorities differ concerning the food value of cheese in comparison with that of meat, but recent reports show that two-thirds of a pound of American cheese is equivalent to a pound of beef; and as a part of the beef is waste, and as shrinkage in meat cookery must be allowed, it is easily deduced that cheese is an economical as well as a nourishing food.
This, however, does not apply to all kinds of cheeses, for their nutritive value depends partly upon the method of manufacture. A skimmed milk cheese, as Parmesan, for instance, contains only a trace of fat, and cottage cheese made from separated milk is also deficient in fat unless cream, or melted butter, is added to make the dietetic balance. Stilton cheese which, according to Hutchinson, contains about the same percentage of nutriment as the American variety, costs twice as much per pound, while Roquefort, Camembert, or Gorgonzola, are expensive and contain less nourishment than the cheaper varieties. For this reason, it is advisable to purchase cheese according to the purpose for which it is to be used, remembering that a low or moderate-priced cheese contains as much nourishment as the more costly varieties, which are valued for flavor; and that a bland cheese, with no pronounced flavor, is far more adaptable to cookery than a "sharp" cheese.
The reason that cheese is not generally used as a substantial food is undoubtedly due to lack of knowledge. A visit to any large market or up-to-date grocery store will disclose a number of varieties, and, unless the housewife is clever enough to learn their uses from her foreign neighbor, she is very liable to pass by one of the most adequate food supplies. "Full cream," "American" and "American dairy" cheese are one and the same article and may be used in all cases where general cheese cookery is to be adopted. Cheddar may be used in the same way. Sage cheese is not suited to cookery and can be served plain only, or in a rarebit; "Sap Sago," "Romano" and "Parmesan" cheese are all of Italian make and are especially desirable for use with macaroni, or soups, or whenever a hard, grated cheese is to appear. Parmesan may be obtained in bottles, grated ready for use, although it must be utilized within two or three weeks after opening or it may become mouldy. Edam and pineapple cheese should be served as salad accompaniments, cream and cottage cheese with bread and butter or crackers, Swiss cheese with brown or rye bread and butter either in sandwiches with a dash of mustard or plain, Stilton as a conventional course at dinner, Lim-burger with frankfurters and sauerkraut, while Gorgonzola and Camembert are suitable for the after-dinner savory.
Cooked cheese is far more wholesome than the raw, if prepared at a moderate heat, but no food can be more indigestible than cheese subjected to a high heat. Consisting mostly of casein, which, by the way, is similar to the albumin in eggs, it becomes as tough and leathery as an overcooked egg when prepared too rapidly. For this reason all vegetables or cereals should be thoroughly cooked before the cheese is added to them. If an English cheese pudding is to be baked, for example, the dish should be set in hot water and the temperature of the water should not be allowed to get above the simmering point. When a rarebit or an English Monkey is to be prepared, it should stand over hot water during the whole process; if cheese is to be added to soup, it should be after the boiling is completed.
Although it may replace the usual meat at any meal during the day, it is more satisfactory to use cheese at luncheon or supper, as the strong flavor is not well adapted to breakfast, and custom has formed the meat habit at dinner. It is at first a little difficult for the inexperienced housewife to build up her menus with cheese as the central dish, but, if she keeps constantly in mind the dietetic balance, the task is greatly simplified. As cheese is so concentrated, a certain amount of bulky food must be added to the meal to provide ballast enough to satisfy hunger and help on the intestinal action. This is usually obtained through the use of grains or cereals, or vegetables. Because cheese is heavy in texture, it often engenders a feeling of satiety before sufficient food has been eaten, unless "cut" with a contrasting acid or fresh flavor. So whenever it is introduced, a green salad or a tart fruit in some form should make up a portion of the menu. Brown, rye, or whole wheat meal bread is a perfect combination with cheese, not only in the old nursery tales, but to-day, when the whole economic world is searching for the best in foods, and it supplies not only the necessary bulk, but the correct amount of food constituents as well.
In planning meals in which cheese is the main dish, it will inevitably occur to the housewife that she is allowing too little. A fair trial, however, will convince her that a cheese meal is sufficiently substantial to satisfy men in any walk of life; this is true because it is impossible to eat of cheese as of meat, because it is so compact. The following menus which are suitable for luncheon or supper show how cheese combinations may be made:
Bread and Butter Buttered String Beans
Brown Bread and Butter Sliced Swiss Cheese
All of these menus are roughly balanced and have been thoroughly tested - the only difference between that served to a man at light work and the one at hard labor being in the amount. A little study will show that these are frugal meals, inexpensive and easy of preparation. In the first menu, the salad supplies the freshening touch, the brown bread and butter the bulk and protein necessary to complete the main dish (in this case not over-rich in cheese as it is really a bread and cheese pudding), while the cornmeal provides extra starch, and the syrup the sweet. In the second menu the cheese is combined with rice croquettes as a sauce. The string beans add the bulk and the apple dumplings with lemon sauce the enlivening touch. In the third menu the cheese is used in a very different way, being an adjunct to the soup, rather than the chief constituent in the dish. The stew is, therefore, valuable as a starchy food, the egg salad providing the protein, and the tart grape juice gelatine, the acid touch. In the fourth menu uncooked cheese takes its proper place and is used to supplement an otherwise deficient meal. The soup provides the mineral and liquid, brown bread and butter supplemented by thinly-sliced Swiss cheese the protein, celery the awakening touch and the apple turnovers the needed starch.
Cheese and Nut Balls.
To keep cheese from the time it is received until all is used is a problem. In order to forestall mould or dryness, it should be wrapped in a slightly-damp cloth, then in paper and kept in a cool place. When convenient, waxed paper may replace the cloth. In no case should air be wholly excluded as then mould is liable to form. Scraps of cheese, like odds and ends of bread, should be kept separate from the main supply as the little pieces afford greater opportunity for the growth of bacteria.
When cheese is to be cooked, the majority of recipes give directions for grating. This, at best, is a slow process and not at all necessary unless cheese straws or cheese crackers are to be made. If it must be done, the most convenient grater for the purpose contains little slits which act like knives and, by using it, the cheese can be prepared without grating the fingers. Whenever cheese is to be put into a savory, or sauce of any kind, the simplest method is to put it through the food chopper; while, if it is to be melted before adding the other ingredients (as in some methods for making Welsh rarebit), slicing is sufficient.
Combinations of cheese and eggs are innumerable. In baking eggs in milk, bestrew with grated cheese; to make a cheese omelet, spread grated cheese thickly in the fold and serve with tomato sauce; while eggs scrambled with cheese is a delicious southern dish. Hard-cooked eggs may be sliced and heated in a cheese sauce, or the sauce may be poured over toast and sprinkled with finely-chopped egg.
The old Romans made wonderful salads of cheese, lettuce, raisins and honey, with a dash of olive oil, and while such a combination is not tempting to us, we approach it in the service of cheese with salads. Lettuce can be made into a hearty supper dish, if dressed with a French dressing and sprinkled with cottage cheese, put through a potato ricer, and accompanied with brown bread and butter and rich preserves. If cottage cheese is not at hand, any soft American cheese will answer the purpose, if grated or chopped fine.