Ethical Eating

I'm Eating What?! Wisconsin Cheese Curds

​Though it usually would take an act of Congress to get us to eat anything that rhymes with turd, we had to try cheese curds when we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, last week. No, this is not a joke. There is an actual city named Oshkosh. And there is a popular

version of cheese that sounds unappealing but has almost reached the

status of "Official Snack of the Badger State." Some of the state's

inhabitants and neighbors are pretty damned smitten with the stuff, and we

had to find out why. 

We were mostly in Oshkosh

to check out the EAA Airshow, partially because we heard it's a hoot

and partially because, hell, there was nothing else to do over the


The Green Bay Airport is where we had

our first curd sighting, though the critters were hidden away in a

cooler and priced at a less-than-appealing $10 per bag. [By the way,

that's pronounced "BAY-yag" by the locals.] Curiosity almost lead to an

impulse purchase, but then

the voice of reason screamed something like,

"Hey, dumbasses! You know crap in airport shops is always triple the

price. Put it down!" So we obeyed.

The first

chance we had to try cheese curds in public came soon enough when we hit

the hotel's restaurant. There they were on the menu: fried original or

fried jalapeño cheese curds. We had to get both. But first, we

asked our waitress exactly what a cheese curd is. "It's cheddar that

hasn't been processed," she explained. We assumed that meant it would be

more flavorful and soft. Wrong-ola.

Cheese curds are random-shaped bits of cheese that are saltier, less flavorful, and firmer than the stuff you buy at a supermarket. This firmness makes them kinda squeak against the teeth as an unsuspecting diner bites down... which, truthfully, isn't the most appealing sensation. But hey, anything fried can be edible, right? 

The ones we ordered came with a curious ranch sauce that honestly did nothing to enhance their flavor, but we ate the whole damned bowl full because, frankly, they were there and we were hungry.

During the trip, we noticed garlic and dill cheese curds too, and we also stumbled across a website offering them in Cajun, taco, and even ranch-flavored varieties. But we decided the only folks who need to eat these are Wisconsinites and those so smashed from Leinenkugel that they wouldn't know if they were eating tire treads instead.

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Riki Altman