9. Ode to Norwegian Brown Cheese by Rebecca Dinerstein

TITLE: Ode to Norwegian Brown Cheese
AUTHOR: Rebecca Dinerstein
PUBLISHED: The New Yorker, 2015
READING TIME: 18 minutes


Illustration by Boyoun Kim for The New Yorker.

I first read this article about Norwegian brown cheese about two years ago, and I wrote in an Evernote notebook I’ve titled Travel that I should plan a trip to Norway. I know nothing about the country other than it has a Viking past and this luscious brown cheese, brunost, that Dinerstein describes so deliciously and beautifully. I assumed the cheese could only be found in Norway, hence the need to one day soon book a plane ticket to the Scandinavian country I imagine all looks like a small fishing village.

Brown cheese was a concept, an ideal I filed in the corner of my memory after reading about it. Then the other day at the farmers market, I felt the subdued awe and excitement of recognition when I looked down in the cheese case to see a block of cheese wrapped in a bright-red wrapper. The cheese was geitost, the type of brown cheese Dinerstein ate on cloudy days while living in the Arctic village of Leknes for a year. It’s made from goat’s milk and looks like a fist-sized caramel. It even has a slight caramel flavor.

I brought the cheese home and followed Dinerstein’s ceremony. I sliced a piece of French bread. I slathered it with imported European salted butter. I cut a thin slice of brown cheese like a potter cuts clay with a wire. A skive (open-faced sandwich) was before me, and it was a perfect, harmonious balance of carbohydrate, salty cream, and burnt sweetness.

Perhaps if I traveled to Norway the skive I ate in the kitchen of my Atlanta studio apartment would have paled in comparison to the ones I would have eaten there. Dinerstein writes that she “tried to recreate a skive in the States, it didn’t work. Our bread tasted synthetic and floppy, our butter failed to spread.” For now, I’d say the skives I make in Atlanta are perfection.


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