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Worst thing ever: cheese and snobbery

Cecelia Heffron | Tuesday, October 8, 2013

While filling our cart with the usual yogurt, granola bars and Keurig cups on a trip to a nearby grocery store, my friend experienced a sudden burst of inspiration. 

“Let’s get cheese!” she suggested, “And olives and crackers – everything we need for a fancy hors d’oeuvres night!” 

I needed no convincing, so we set off in pursuit of the necessary ingredients for a perfect night with friends. 

Disappointment ensued upon discovering the grocery store lacked a special cheese department. Instead, the complete selection of cheese could be found in the deli section. My friend examined our options while I stood there scoffing. Surely, this could not be the extent of my choices. 

I condescended to look at the cheese and was horrified by what I saw – cubes of colby jack, slices of monterey jack and unpleasant hunks of cheddar . . . but where was the camembert, the manchego, the aged gouda? My friend, annoyed by my criticism of the perfectly good cheese, grabbed a pack of nicely pre-sliced American cheese. 

“No!” I yelled, horrified, “Can’t you see that was sitting right next to the Cheese Whiz. Read the ingredients and you’ll find that cheese isn’t even listed! Nothing in the world could prevail upon me to eat that garbage!” 

My friend was taken aback.  

I explained that during my summer spent in Paris, I had learned everything about quality cheese. Proudly, I declared myself a cheese connoisseur. “Believe me,” I said, “the absolute worst thing in the world is a pseudo-cheese product that pretends to be real cheese. Oh, what nerve!” 

I stormed out of the aisle, officially cancelling hors d’oeuvre night. But as my outrage subsided, I realized that I had been too hasty in my condemnation of non-dairy cheese imitators as the worst thing ever . . .

Thanks to my heated rant, I had discovered the actual worst thing ever: snobbery. I had attempted to mask my snobbery by calling myself a connoisseur of fine cheese, but the cold, hard truth was that I was acting like a snob. 

Connoisseurs and snobs are expert judges in matters of taste. They consider their tastes to be superior to those of everyone else. Here at Notre Dame, we have many varieties of snobs: the Coffee Snob, who only drinks Starbucks coffee; the Fashion Snob, who would never dream of wearing knockoff shoes or off-brand clothes; the Music Snob, who would never stoop to participate in a cliché Taylor Swift sing-along when they could listen to more sophisticated music; and the Dining Hall Snob, who would never dream of venturing to the lesser of the two dining hall institutions. And apparently, there is at least one Cheese Snob. 

While there is nothing wrong with having personal preference or a penchant for the finer things, becoming a connoisseur of anything has its drawbacks. Allowing oneself to have too refined of taste can lead to close-mindedness and self-imposed limitations. 

As college students, we have the unique opportunity expose ourselves to new ideas, foods, music genres and art forms. If we have already defined ourselves as connoisseurs of one particular sphere at the young age of 20, we risk closing ourselves off to countless new things. If our Coffee Snob relinquished any snobby ideas and visited another café, they might discover a surprisingly delicious drink option like the hot chocolate at Waddick’s. Or if our Dining Hall Snob decided to visit North, they might discover the magic of the Rec Room or bump into the perfect candidate for their next SYR date. 

I remain convinced that pseudo-cheese products that dare to call themselves cheese tare a close runner-up to the title of worse thing ever. However, by pretending to be a cheese connoisseur I lost out on a potentially memorable night with my friends. 

Again, there is nothing wrong with having good taste and strong personal preference. There is nothing wrong with liking good cheese. What should be avoided is looking down upon the tastes and preferences of others. Exercise good judgment in taste, but keep those judgments to yourself. Otherwise, you too may become a snob, the worst thing ever. 

Contact Cecelia Heffron at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.