Friday, 16 May 2014

Dutch Integration: Slicing Cheese

You're about to delve into the world of cheese slicers. I'm not kidding. Let's start at the beginning. More than fourteen years ago, whilst living my British life, I used a knife to cut cheese for my sandwiches or crackers. A sharp knife. Sometimes a fancy cheese knife if I was out and about. But essentially a knife. No fancy fangled gadget to slice cheese in my house. A knife.

And then I moved to the Netherlands and I was presented with this:

This is what the Dutch use to cut cheese: een kaasschaaf. In the wrong hands (my hands) it's no longer a cheese slicing device, it's a deadly weapon. But then for self inflicted wounds. Unless you have fingers that grow back make sure you practice with a toy kaasschaaf first (most Dutch toy kitchens come with a mini plastic kaasschaaf to get you started). 

There are expats spread across the length and breadth of the Netherlands with bandaged fingers. There are expats sitting right now as you read this in the A&E department of their local hospital nursing missing finger tops. Don't join them. Practice before you are let loose with a kaasschaaf.

Once you are sure you've developed a safe but efficient technique you can progress to a real, sharp cheese slicer. Carefully. Slowly. One small, thin slice of cheese at a time.

If, even after practice, the idea of using a kaasschaaf is still too frightening all is not lost. I have an expat friend who has the perfect solution: buy cheese slices from the supermarket instead of cheese blocks or rounds. It's a little more pricey, but when you weigh up the medical insurance personal contributions and rising premiums because of excessive insurance use, it may all balance out in the long run.

One last word on the topic. All kaasschaven are not created equally. Once, a long time ago, in a cheese shop far away, we bought a big round cheese. The cheeseman (kaasboer) gave us a free kaasschaaf. Once my husband had got over his excitement of a freebie, we headed home and I immediately used our new kaasschaaf. 

"Well, so much for gratis, this cheese slicer is crap. It is ripping the cheese into pieces, not slicing it. It's going in the bin," I informed my husband as I menacingly held the slicer over the kitchen dustbin.

"Stop! It's the wrong sort of cheese," he said.

"What? Like the wrong kind of leaves or snow on the track issue?" 

"No. This cheese is too soft. Use the other slicer we have. This new one is for hard cheese," He explained.

Little did you know huh?

Hard Cheese, Soft Cheese? You Need to Know


  1. I liked your post but have to warn you: the pre-sliced cheese isn't as good as the cheese you slice yourself (not in my opinion at least :-) ) but off course if the alternative is the ER room with a chopped finger...

  2. Absolutely agree! But for some it is a choice of good cheese v full hand of fingers. It's a tough decision and very personal.... ;-)

  3. Love seeing this! When moving back to the U.S. after living in Europe, I felt like I needed this Stateside, and bought one here, too. It has never quite worked the same here, though. Sigh. Back to Europe, then, maybe? :)

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  5. I love this! Growing up in a Dutch family, this is always what my mother used to slice cheese (spiced Gouda was always my fave). Naturally, I had my own one by the time I got married and moved out. However, my poor Canadian husband still has no idea how to use it :) ~Ree

  6. Amazing writing about cheese slicer. Its an important part that we must should use in our kitchen for better and smooth lifestyle. Thanks for sharing.