Arabic cheese of Dutch cows in the desert
When I think of The Netherlands I think of green grasslands. A patchwork of colorful cows that graze on fresh grass and yellow buttercups. But I also think of the market stall full of fragrant cheeses of all types and sizes. The farmer’s wife put all her creativity in the homemade products that she set out. She sold Farmers -in-the-Field-cheese, Cheese of Herbs & Spices, and Fire Grass cheese. And I, not unwillingly to try anything that is unknown to me, was offered her new trials.
Dutch cows in the Rub al Khali desert
Cheese is a well-appreciated product in the Middle East. It is made from the milk of Dutch cows stalled in the middle of the desert. Their milk is taken off eagerly, processed into yogurt, laban (a kind of buttermilk), or into different types of soft cheeses. The cows walk around freely in wide open fields between herds of camels, sheep, and goats. They might not be able to nibble from land’s green but are given the greenest hay I have ever seen instead.
Over the years I have tasted almost all cheeses offered in the Middle East. From the rubber-like halloumi to balls of testouri and the Syrian wire cheese. Most of them are soft unripened cheeses in water. Some are spreadable or rubbery in texture. But they are especially salty.
In dishes, grilled on the BBQ, or put in a salad the Arabic cheeses taste delicious. But as a real Dutchie, I prefer a more ripened cheese. Fortunately, the local supermarket sells plenty of Dutch and French export cheeses. When I do my weekly groceries I usually buy a kilo of mature cheese or Old Amsterdam. The staff that know me prepare it as soon as they see me coming. But when new employees hear my order their astonishment clearly shows off their faces. The cheese I buy is hard, and although they don’t say it out-loud, smelly.
I have already tasted all Dutch exports cheeses. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that the quality is not the same as the products in the Netherlands. When I told the Pakistani shopkeeper about my findings he apologetically but proudly offered me a new variant. Genuine Dutch Cola cheese. “Cola-cheese? Seriously?” ran through my mind. I kindly declined his offer. Perhaps I can ask the creative farmer’s lady from the market to taste it for me.