Went shopping at Whole Foods last night, and was delighted to see that they finally note whether the cheeses are made with animal or vegetarian rennet.
Looking over all the cheeses, my eye was caught by some shiny, foil-wrapped little bricks of Limburger. Anybody who has watched Saturday morning cartoons knows this as the cheese whose stench is so great that it repels all foes (except for Pepe LePew). It is the skunk of the cheese world.
I picked up the cheese. "I'm having Warner Brothers flashbacks," I said to the young man behind the counter. "Have you ever smelled this stuff? I only know it from cartoons."
He looked at a point over my left shoulder as he composed his reply. "It's got a very pungent, unique aroma--"
"It stinks, doesn't it?" I asked.
I was curious, so I brought it home. I don't know what I was expecting -- something along the lines of Gorgonzola times ten, perhaps. The triple wrapping told me this was a beast that had to be kept under control.
I finally got the package open at one end, and it hit me immediately. I sniffed.
What I smelled was a cross between Rotting Corpse of Woodland Animal, and Diarrhea. It was vile in a way I can only describe as primal. My instinct was to rush to the yard, bury it, and recite an incantation that would keep it from rising from its mouldering grave to attack me while I slept.
But I held back. Reasoning that there must be an explanation as to why it's made and eaten, I decided to try it with some bread and olives. And red wine. As I bit into the cheese, I realized I'd overlooked the under-bouquet of horse manure in my earlier sniff.
The cheese actually tastes fine, sort of like a pungent Gouda. But the smell -- Good Lord, I had to wash my hands with lilac soap because I literally kept thinking that one of the cats had had an accident outside the litterbox every time my fingers got near my face. I had to re-wrap the cheese and put it into a plastic bag and then in the fridge to keep my apartment from smelling like a crime scene.
The package says that the smell is the result of microbial digestion of the rind. So I'm right; I'm smelling microbial poop. I'm eating microbial poop.
I wonder if there's any left....