Christmas is many different things to many different people. For some, it's observing with love and patience the ten minute struggle their gran has unwrapping presents with arthritis-riddled fingers. To others it's sitting quietly around the dinner table and wanting so desperately to let out a long, unpleasant hungover cry whilst waiting for the gravy boat. But everyone knows that as you get older, the festive period becomes less about family and gift-giving, and more about eating - specifically, eating cheese. Even more specifically, eating so much damn cheese that your dreams are like being inside a Salvador Dali painting. But, like cheese, with age comes a mature palate. So how best to navigate away from a fromage faux pas on your Christmas party cheese platter? Well first, you need to know what your cheese choice says about you.
Stilton: The Scary One
Did you know that stilton has it's own "Stilton Cheesemaker's Association", and is the only cheese to be granted legal protection? I knew that. And did you also know that it's one of the only tastes that will stick around the next day when you're vomiting it back up because you drank too much of the alcohol your uncle made in his garage, no matter what else you've eaten? I knew that too. In 2013 there was a severe decline in young people buying stilton because they're "afraid to eat the mould." That's right - that's what this generation is really scared of. And you all thought it was ISIS and celebrity rapists! Therefore eating it is the culinary equivalent of picking up a spider with your bare hands. So if you want to impress your crush this Christmas, try eating a monster slice of the blue stuff - they'll be lookin' at you like you've just taken your glasses off in a high school romcom.
Dairylea Triangles: The Loser
So you spent £39.99 on a fancy piece of wood to put the cheese on but only £2 on the actual cheese? What is this, a Mark Corrigan dinner party? Nothing will tell your friends you hate them more than some janky tin-foiled salty cheese slop. Just don't do it. Don't bring your guilty pleasures to other people's well developed tastebuds. Don't even have the audacity to try and arrange it in some nice art deco pattern, because we all know you're trying to take everyone's mind off the fact that the flaccid junk you've served is made solely for the warm lunch boxes of primary school children. The same applies to Wotsits, burger cheese, and every single thing made by Primula.
Stinking Bishop: The Loner
If you want to spend all night smelling like something died inside your mouth and having weird dreams where you wake up crying and orgasming simultaneously, I suggest you add Stinking Bishop to your collection. It won first prize at Britain's Smelliest Cheese Awards which, for those who aren't involved in the dark, dark world of fetid cheese adjudication, is a pretty big accolade. It is best served to large groups of young inebriated rugby players trying to outdo each other by being acutely dumb; or to old, bearded bah humbugs who will wash it down with extreme amounts of ale, and may accidentally dutch oven their long-suffering wenches to death early Christmas morn.
Seasonal Cheese: The Pretentious One
Supermarkets tend to release a Christmas-themed cheese during the run-up to Christmas in a bid to capitalise on those festive folks who are willing to pay out of the backside for everything with snow on the packaging. And it works, of course, because like everything else at Christmas the price of seasonal goods rises exponentially, even though at all other times of the year we would never pay seven quid for a crumb of cranberry Wensleydale. And everyone wants to outdo each other on the fanciness of their finds: so my neighbour got Christmas tree-smoked cheddar, huh? Well I got the last sprout-infused gouda, so suck it, Tracey. If retailers really wanted to make a cheese that captures the essence of christmas, why doesn't Waitrose have a brie that smells like the tension between my divorced parents or the tang of fresh tears from not getting the RIGHT PYJAMA SET AGAIN FOR GOD'S SAKE.
Halloumi: The Hipster
Let's be clear: halloumi has no place in a Christmas spread. It doesn't belong on crackers. You can't dip it in anything creamy. It has to be prepared differently to all other cheese. But no doubt one of your hipster friends is going to ask for it, along with gluten free crackers and craft beer. Halloumi is a distinctly summery cheese best found on a barbecue skewer next to some questionable meat. I mean, what are you trying to do, remind everyone of how good summer was? Yeah, that's exactly what your guests want to remember when they're smoking outside the back door in minus temperatures, trying to recall the last time their nipples weren't erect.
Camembert: The Slut
It's a common misconception that you can't feel sexy after eating a lot of cheese. You think cheese can't be sexy? You're wrong. It can be tres sexy.You just haven't experienced the right kind of cheese yet. Take camembert, the slut from Normandy. Perhaps slut is the wrong word. It's more... elegantly saucy. A minx, if you will. If Camembert were a person it would be an elegant lady-cougar with a husky voice who is committed to making risqué calendars with the WI for charity. It's the Carla Bruni of cheese, oozing its delicate contents all over your fridge shelf. And although more and more people are starting to consider its drippy goodness as the perfect cheese to eat in a celebratory fashion, camembert is best when gently heated and consumed naked next to a raging fire, with the sultry tones of Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'aime and a sophisticated selection of crudités.
Cheddar: The Everyman
Everybody's good friend Cheddar. "Behind every great taste is a great cheddar," as the age-old saying goes. You'll find it lurking in every single delicious thing you can think of: between grilled bread, on top of pizza, melted over macaroni. It's at home on every kind of cracker. It just feels right placed next to a chunk of pineapple on the tip of a cocktail stick protruding from a tinfoil hedgehog. It'll always be there to fall back on, massaging your tastebuds and whispering gently, "I contain your whole day's fat intake." Apparently cheddar is no longer popular with the British this Christmas, but you and I know that's a lie. It's a cheese that everyone can enjoy, so make sure you get enough so it can be the centrepiece. Why not try making it an actual centrepiece by carving a nativity scene into a big block of it? That sure would make Jesus happy, and on his birthday of all days.
Nothing quite bears the requisite Christmas calorie intake like a wooden slate overloaded with warm pasteurised goods and, of course, a scary looking knife. So indulge yourself, because January's going to be here quicker than you can say "fitspiration," and before you know it, you're getting eyeballed for dipping a stick of cucumber into Thousand Island dressing.