According to the U.S.D.A., Americans eat over 30 pounds of cheese a year. 11.5 pounds of that is mozzarella, which has beat out cheddar (9.6 pounds) for the second year in a row. The means mozzarella is the most popular form of cheese in the United States, which it shouldn’t be, because it’s terrible.
Plain-old mozzarella comes in vaccuum-tight plastic bags stacked on grocery store shelves like white bricks, which the cheese pretty much is. Most of the mozzarella in the U.S. is desiccated, dried out until it has a better shelf life, less moisture, and less taste. The brick shape and hard texture makes mozzarella popular for grating, but much of the country’s favorite cheese comes in an even more heinous form.
Modern Farmer relates our obsession with mozzarella to the popularity of pizza and notes that “resealable bags of shredded cheddar and mozzarella” have made cheese easier to add to meals. These bags of pre-grated, fibrous strings of dairy-like substance that come dusted with preservatives are literally the devil. They make foodies cry. No one should ever be forgiven for buying them, and don’t even ask about Kraft’s green cylinders of atomized parmesan dust.
You should only be putting regular mozzarella on pizza. Eating fresh mozzarella in non-melted form is okay. That’s it. And if you feel tempted by the allure of convenient bagged cheese, get off your couch, buy a cheese grater, and use it. Your tastebuds will thank you.
The good news is that there are many other types of cheese for culinarily backward Americans to enjoy besides mozzarella and its lesser-evil cousin cheddar.
Burrata is an amazing form of mozzarella that also contains cream. Cut open the outside of the cheese, and out comes oozing a spreadable, soft substance that is ten times as delicious as any normal mozzarella. Grana Padano is a cross between parmesan and romano cheese that’s great grated or on its own. Robusto is like cheddar but better.
For those who can handle stinkier cheeses, triple cream brie is accessibly pungent. Epoisses is said to have been Napoleon’s favorite cheese. Rogue Creamery makes a line of blue cheeses that are good for beginners who don’t want too much mold.
I’m not telling all you dairy philistines to start eating Casu marzu, a maggot-filled cheese that’s illegal in the U.S., but at least try something different.