The Column with Simone B. Michielen: Say (Dutch) cheese


Who doesn’t know Gouda cheese? But why is it called Gouda? And does all Gouda cheese come from this beautiful Dutch city? By the way, in Slovenia, we write Gavda. What’s in a name…

Time for some answers!

Cheese is made all over the world, but Dutch cheese is world famous.

It seems that the Swiss were known to make cheese already 3000 years ago, but that the Dutch were eating cheese was first mentioned by Ceasar in his book The Bello Gallico (57 B.C.). Nowadays, most cheese is made in factories, but more popular among the Dutch foodies is cheese made on the farm, preferable in a traditional way and with milk from cows that eat fresh grass. Like it should be…

In the Middle Ages cheese making in the Netherlands already started to become serious business. Because of the wet soil being perfect for cows, especially the farmers in the regions North and South Holland and Friesland specialized in this craft. On the city square of Gouda in Zuid Holland you can still find the 17th century “Waag”, the official weighing station for cheese. During the Golden Century Dutch export started, and nowadays almost 7 billion euro worth of dairy products are exported around the world.

My father was born in 1904 on a cheese farm, not far away from Gouda, and even when I was young cheese was still made traditionally on this farm. The wagon wheel shape, the weight and especially the time the cheeses are ripening make a real (aged) Gouda. Although this cheese is named after the city, by now it can be produced anywhere. I love old Gouda cheese. The deep taste, the saltiness and the crumble, mmmmm. But not all cheeses are ripened in the traditional way, “Old Amsterdam” for example, is not very old at all!

How do we eat cheese in the Netherlands? On our sandwiches for lunch of course! And as a snack with our drinks, we even order small cubes of our favourite one in a bar, eaten with a spoon full of mustard. Maybe we should call it a Dutch tapa? We love cheese with and on almost everything.

Did you know there are special cheese shops in the Netherlands? And that in every Dutch kitchen drawer you can find a kaasschaaf? I don’t even know if there is an English word for it, but the Dutch use it to cut nice, even slices of their cheese and most people even bring this tool with them on holidays! We love it so much that it became an item in a museum, a pimped version of course. This most expensive one with over two hundred diamonds and worth 25.000 euros, was stolen from that museum in Amsterdam in 2015.