Cheeseboards have been around ever since the 15th century, however the French would call it charcuterie (pronounced ‘shahr-ku-tuh-ree’) and it is more of an art form. Yes, it is the art of preparing and presenting meat and other meat products in an aesthetic manner, and often paired with accompaniments like toast, drinks, fruits, cheese and even chocolate.
However, charcuterie boards and cheeseboards do come with a notable distinction – the former features a selection of meat, which will complement the meat, whereas in a cheese board the cheese will remain in focus, with sides to supplement the cheese.
Being a cheeseboard influencer is actually a full-time job
Cheeseboards became insanely popular recently as part of a social media trend, especially since the pandemic began last year. However, for Marrisa Mullen – a bonafide expert in the field of cheeseboards – who started compiling her own board of cheese for her friends, it ended up becoming more of a self-care activity.
Today, the social media star is the proud owner of a book titled ‘That cheese plate will change your life’, wherein she teaches a method called ‘cheese by numbers’.
Curious to know what it is all about?
“As my plates became more elaborate, I realised how much time the building process could take. You need to prep the cheese, fold the salami, and deliberately cut the produce. Taking the time to follow these steps forced me to slow down, a welcome change from how I spent the weeks at my day job.
“Every time, I was instinctively following a step-by-step process, filling in elements by sections. I asked my friend Sara Gilanchi, a talented illustrator, to sketch one of my plates numbering the illustration with 1 as Cheese, 2 as Meat, 3 as Produce, 4 as Crunch, 5 as Dip, and 6 as Garnish. Thus, the Cheese By Numbers method was born,” she wrote in her book.
However, to understand it in a broader base, Mathilde Hamon – who is the Head Creative Food Designer at Atelier by Tarteliere, a French Luxury Catering Boutique based in Dubai – spoke to Food by Gulf News on how you can master the art of preparing a cheeseboard.
Choosing the right kind of cheese
Since cheese is in focus on every cheeseboard, there is a specific way to choosing the ideal type. Look at any cheese board and you will find 5 to 10 varieties of cheese at the very least. However, here is a quicker way to find the right ones for you based it on four classifications: aged, soft, hard and blue.
That said and done, you can also identify the cheese you want based on the type of milk used to make the cheese, be it goat’s milk, camel milk, sheep or cow. Nevertheless, while you do this, make sure that you serve at least one familiar type of cheese. You don’t want your guests to try something outside their comfort zone in one go.
But, how much is truly enough on one cheeseboard?
There are no hard and fast rules in particular, but there is a set rule you can follow while perfecting your cheeseboard.
Hamon said: “There are many different varieties of cheese to choose from. As a rule of thumb, it's best to include at least one cheese from each variety to have a great selection. We recommend a hard and semi-hard, bloomy rind, washed rind, blue cheese and a chèvre (pronounced “shev-ruh”) or goat cheese. You can also talk to your cheesemonger for more advice on what to pick next!”
Why did it jump to popularity?
With one of the 21st century’s greatest advantages being social media, it only takes the right content and a matter of seconds to send a wave of popularity all over the world. The cheeseboard, is one such wave. Moreover, it is the biggest one yet, especially among millennials.
Ever since the pandemic resulted in a lockdown last year, several TikTok food trends surfaced especially since the world was confined to the four walls of their own homes. Some of them have even taken it up as a full-time job!
But getting all this to come together can be a therapeutic journey
After all the research, I think it is safe to say that cheeseboards could get quite expensive in terms of buying cheese, fruits, accompaniments and everything else that contributes to the perfect board.
So how can you make a feasible and tasty cheeseboard?
“Cheese is a labour of love that takes a long time! The same can be said with a cheeseboard. Gathering all your cherry-picked accompaniments and garnishes can take a bit of time. A tip would be to gather your supplies ahead of time as most classic accompaniments could be stored in your cupboards for a while.
“If you're short on the time, ditch the supplies and order your cheeseboard ready-made, saves you the effort so you can get to the good part... La Dégustation! Budget-wise, you get what you pay for. However, there are all sorts of varieties of cheese to fit most budgets. Remember that cheese tends to be a gourmet produce, so don't be surprised with some of the price tags!
“Keep an eye out for the appellations such as Appellations d'Origine Contrôlées (AOC), Appellations d'Origine Protégées (AOP) and Indications Géographiques protégées (IGP). These labels are there to assure a cheese’s geographic provenance and guarantee unimpeachable quality, so you can have the real deal, an authentic experience!” said Hamon.
There are different ways to experiment with your cheeseboard, especially since your options are a plenty. However, that said; make sure to choose the right cheese or at least a familiar cheese depending on your guest’s likes.
The art of preparing a cheeseboard is more than just good aesthetic presentation, and is one of the ways to get proficient in the method of pairing the right kind of cheese with the right accompaniments. In addition, as much as it’s best to place your cheese on a wooden board, you can even start your journey with a ceramic plate. So take your time, enjoy your cheese and relish the history behind the cheeseboard!
Have you ever prepared a cheeseboard? Tell us about it on firstname.lastname@example.org