Smile and Say Cheese

You can really learn a lot about a place by its cheese. Seriously, think about it! Almost everywhere you go in the world, they’ll have some kind of cheese that’s unique to that particular place and the cuisine that goes with it. Greece is no different. We have our specialties—for example, the town of Arachova is known for its hard formaela cheese—but if Greek cheese brings any one thing to mind, it’s definitely feta. So I thought I’d throw together a few fun facts and uses for feta before I go and throw some on top of tomorrow’s salad:

  • Some of the same cheesemaking processes practiced by the ancients thousands of years ago are still used today. How do we know? Because Homer describes it in the Odyssey!
  • The word feta, according to that great source of wisdom Wikipedia, is derived from “fetta,” an Italian word for ‘slice’
  • What does feta have in common with a cucumber? They’re both pickled! Soaking the curds in salt water for months at a time is part of what gives Feta its slightly salty bite.
  • But just because it went from being simply “cheese” to the Italian “fetta” doesn’t mean that you can throw some cheddar in brine and call it feta—today, after a long battle & much scientific debate, it’s a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), which means feta can only be called feta if it is made in Greece.
  • Because it isn’t aged as long as most cheeses, its fat content is actually pretty low, despite its creamy, rich texture.
  • According to legend, in ancient times Greek cheesemaking was such a big deal and such a high honor that when the town cheesemaker died, a highly structured competition would be held to determine his successor.

Let’s chow down!