Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

March 13, 2014

Pizza dust? A cheese by any other name could bring disastrous results

Every weekday afternoon at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, the news staff huddles in Editor Samantha Perry’s office for what we call the budget meeting. We go over the local and wire stories we expect to have for the next edition, and decide where in the paper they will be printed. We also come up with questions for our Facebook page and decide what we want to update next on our website.

Yes, it’s serious business, but we have been known to get off track. Sometimes we get way off track. For instance, we noticed a story that ran in Wednesday’s edition. The headline was “Europe Wants its Parmesan back, seeks name change.” Basically, some Europeans want to take back popular cheese names like Parmesan and feta.

I thought this story might inspire a good Facebook question. If we can’t use the old European cheese names, what could we use? What could we call Parmesan cheese?

Well, I can’t eat spaghetti unless I have good old grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over it. The shredded variety is good, too. What could I rename it?

“Pizza dust?” I suggested.

Samantha laughed and everyone agreed this idea of mine was more hilarious than sensible. Given our region’s drug problem, dubbing anything “dust” conveys the wrong idea. Parmesan cheese could easily become “Italian crack” or some other not-so-good names.

I’m not sure the Europeans realize the consequences of making Americans rename their favorite cheeses. I don’t think the good people of Parma want their namesake product to be known as pizza dust overseas. Then there is Romano cheese to think about. Romantic cheese? American rammer? Mano?

Feta cheese is another challenge when it comes to renaming. Feta isn’t a place in Greece, but it’s Greek cheese. Fetid cheese? Fee cheese? Fee-fi-fo-fum? I give up.

OK. Here comes Muenster cheese. When I hear that name, I think of the lovable Herman Munster and his family on that television show “The Munsters.” Muenster cheese can become Munster Cheese. We could also call it Monster Cheese and sell it in boxes shaped like the Frankenstein monster’s head.

Neufchatel is a challenge. The name reminds me of the German term for an artillery rocket used during World War II. It terrorized American soldiers and blasted the heck out of more than one target. Naturally, our troops invented their own colorful name for this horror. If I had my way, we would honor their creativity by dubbing Neufchatel cheese “Screaming Mimi.” Great name for a rocket, but not such a great one for cheese. Can you imagine seeing that label in your local deli section?

I’ve never even heard of some of these cheeses. Gorgonzola becomes Gorgon, a monster in Greek mythology. I’m sure horror show geeks could dream up a colorful package for Gorgon cheese. Mothers would refuse to take their children to the dairy aisle when they go shopping. Yes, people of Europe, our new names could get that bad. I could dream up some even worse ones after too much coffee and too many episodes of “Star Trek.”

People of Europe, please trust me when I say that you don’t want your beloved namesake cheeses to be renamed by Americans. Parmesan become pizza dust. Neufchatel is turned into Screaming Mimi. Muenster cheese literally becomes monstrous. And I’m an American holding down a job and living a somewhat normal life. Imagine what could happen if Americans with too much time on their hands and controlled substances decided to play Name That Cheese. I doubt I could print the results of that!

Americans love to create new words and phrases. There are times when I think I might need an interpreter when I talk to my nephews A.J. and Alex. Sometimes they toss out a new term and my reaction is silent bewilderment. (Just nod and pretend you understand.) If we start renaming European foods, we will see names the Europeans will never recognize. That fact alone should make them willing to drop the whole idea.

 I’m sure we would rather not do that. We take pride in our ancestry. I’m part Italian with some French, Scottish, and German mixed in, and I take pride in that fact. European terms go with a lot of popular products sold in America, so why change them? European languages have added a lot of words to the American vocabulary, too, and that’s not going to change. Those words are a part of who we are.

Hopefully, this European call to take back cheese names will fade. I will still be able to find the grated Parmesan cheese next to the spaghetti sauce, and won’t get a funny look if I ask where I can find the pizza dust.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.

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