Almost surreal in its whiteness, plain cottage cheese tastes better than plain yogurt. But who ever heard of eating plain yogurt, which lends itself to all sorts of post-culture processing.
No dairy product has sunken lower in the popular estimation than cottage cheese. Can you name a fancy restaurant that has cottage cheese on its menu? Is artisanal cottage cheese available at any bistro or gastropub? Is cottage cheese sold at farmers’ markets, or have you ever seen a speck of it at Smorgasburg, say?
Cottage cheese hasn’t been popular since your grandma’s day. Then, it was considered partly kids food, partly something to cook with, and partly a component of a classic luncheon salad platter that also included lettuce and canned fruit. Go to a public hospital, and you may still see cottage cheese on the salad plate.
Yet cottage cheese bravely persists. In the dairy aisle of the supermarket I checked, it constituted 4 linear feet of shallow shelving, while yogurt and yogurt products accounted for 72 feet, overwhelming the cottage cheese like an invading army.
Is it yogurt that killed cottage cheese? Indeed, yogurt, cloaking itself in virtue with its supposed live cultures, has turned into a beverage, dessert, dip, breakfast, sauce, and lunch entrée. How far do you have to go in the city before passing a fro-yo parlor? Some of the yogurt sold probably doesn’t even qualify as actual yogurt.
Or did cottage cheese – yogurt and Ricotta’s rustic cousin – commit suicide? In the 60s, it became synonymous with dieting, and all the fat was removed, globule by globule, resulting in a thin and sour-tasting product. Full-fat cottage cheese is full-bodied, salty, and with a distinct taste of lactating cow. It’s quite delicious. You should try some full fat cottage cheese before it disappears entirely.
Four feet are about all that’s left of what once once an important segment of the dairy aisle. Only one of these is actually full-fat cottage cheese.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 18, 2011