The Morning Call, April 10, 1918.
Image: Screencap, Newspapers.com

Here is my hottest culinary take: Cottage cheese is delicious.

Yes, it’s a neglected staple of a salad bar last redesigned sometime during the first Bush administration, something your grandma ate with cantaloupe. Richard Nixon loved it. It’s a relic of decades-old diet culture, and its datedness is best exemplified by this 1986 commercial on behalf of the stuff by America’s dairy farmers, narrated by Vincent Price.

None of that is the fault of cottage cheese, which is a delicious treat in its whole-fat form, with that weird squeaky dairy curd mouth feel that’s such a delight. And now, as the yogurt boom levels off, the New York Times reports it may be ripe for a revival. Finally—justice for cottage cheese!

The article is a beautiful investigation into cottage cheese—its storied history, its fall to the forces of yogurt, its attempted return to glory. Every line is a curdling milky white gem. For instance:

“Every seven years or so another wave comes through where we try to reposition cottage cheese,” said Dave Potter, the president of Dairy Connection in Madison, Wis., which sells custom cultures and enzymes to cheese makers. “That’s about where we are now.”

They’ve got a strategy:

The goal, according to industry analysts, is to “uncottage” cottage cheese — or, as one dairy executive put it, “Chobani it.”

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Their challenge:

To use the terminology of food marketers, yogurt wears a health halo. Cottage cheese, long linked to the drudgery of dieting, is fighting a punishment halo.

Did you know that during the mid 1970s—“the golden era of cottage cheese”—there was more than a billion pounds of the stuff being produced a year? This was before the rise of yogurt which, as recently as 1962, Dannon had still been pleading with Americans to try, just once, please.

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My only concern here is that an effort to revitalize cottage cheese will end in an embarrassment like we’ve seen with greek yogurt, where runaway popularity inspires a bunch of totally bizarre flavors and products and questionable tie-ins. (What if the made cottage cheese...for men?) And the piece does note that “Flavors are expanding beyond dusty stalwarts like pineapple to include kalamata olive, habanero chile or cumin.”

But apparently, part of what happened to cottage cheese in the first place—at least according to Dave Potter, president of Dairy Connection—was mass production leading to inferior product. “Really good cottage cheese is a hard product to make that doesn’t take well to automation.” Hence it would take especially well to the fancy small-batch artisanal hippie food treatment.

And honestly? I would at least try a cottage cheese ice cream bar. For science.