Nostalgia Through Gjetost
In the past few months, gjetost has been popping up on my radar. First in Bon Appétit. Andrew Knowlton, the author of The Foodist column, opened up his pantry to readers and Ski Queen made the list. Then I saw it in the spring issue of culture — a sweet little piece entitled “Grandmother’s Choice.” And then gjetost crossed my path in a few food blogs.
When I was little, a friend’s mother used to serve gjetost with bread as her go-to snack. She wasn’t Norwegian, but her family had lived there when she herself was young. For a long time, I thought gjetost was the only kind of goat cheese out there. When gjetost started appearing in my life again, I realized I had completely forgotten about it, blocked it from my mind in a way. My friend and I grew apart. I grew up. My palate for goat cheese has extended way beyond gjetost and I’ve certainly never bought it on my own.
When I started working with culture, I asked Eilis where she thought I could get some. It’s not exactly a formaggio type of item, but you probably won’t find it in a mainstream grocery store either. When she spotted it had Whole Foods, she picked up a box and let me take it home to try.
Just like the smell of a restaurant’s grill or chlorine from a gym pool can bring you right back to a long ago summer day, the first taste of gjetost brought me right back to my childhood afternoons spent at my friend’s house after school. Of course, this isn’t surprising. Gjetost has a strong, distinctive flavor. It’s creamy and sweet with caramel notes. The cheese comes in a solid block and melts in your mouth like peanut butter or fudge, but it’s denser. I didn’t have an ostehøvel on hand, so I sliced it with a sharp paring knife. An ostehøvel would have been much easier, but I chipped away at my block of gjetost and enjoyed it thoroughly. I don’t have a much of a sweet tooth, so I often had it like dessert after dinner on a piece of brown bread and in the morning on toast.
I don’t think gjetost will be a pantry staple of mine. It felt indulgent and decadent. I’ll buy it again though, just not right away. I want to give myself some time for the nostalgia to set in, reminding me of my childhood for many tastings to come.