When I close my eyes and imagine the interior of my childhood refrigerator, certain items are always there: blue-glass bottles of seltzer, Breakstone whipped butter, a hunk of (kosher) salami, and cottage cheese. Why cottage cheese? I don’t know. My mother liked to eat it. As the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants, she grew up with it. She would often start her day with a cut-up orange and a scoop of cottage cheese. And when she made her weekly foray to Waldbaum’s, our local supermarket, cottage cheese was always one of her purchases.
I never thought of it as Jewish, per se, but when Tablet came out with their book last year, The 100 Most Jewish Foods, I was bemused, but not shocked, to see that cottage cheese made the list. Food writer Gabriella Gershenson described cottage cheese as “the New World version of pot cheese, curd cheese…” The Nosher contributor Sonya Sanford, whose parents were born in the former Soviet Union, remembers eating noodles and cottage cheese several times each week during her childhood. And Leah Koenig, in her recently published The Jewish Cookbook, describes noodles and farmer’s cheese/cottage cheese as Ashkenazi comfort foods.
I recently did an informal survey of Facebook friends and Instagram followers about how they feel towards cottage cheese, and I received passionate responses filled with either nostalgia or horror. Many hate it — especially those who had it forced on them as the ultimate diet food — but there are plenty who remember it lovingly, mixed with canned peaches, or with noodles, butter, and pepper, or schmeared on matzah and topped with jelly. Or, as April, one of the respondents, said — “Don’t judge,” she begged — it’s even good combined with broad egg noodles and ketchup.
While I shunned it for years (such a rebel!), I now find myself buying cottage cheese quite a lot. After all, cottage cheese lasts for weeks in the refrigerator, it’s high in protein, and it’s a quick lunch or breakfast combined with savory or sweet elements. It also reminds me of my mother.
To get you through the next chunk of time, here are some recipes with cottage cheese that are quick to make, delicious, and wholesome. And a scoop of it just may bring you back in time.
Broccoli cottage cheese pancakes from Adeena Sussman
Noodles and cottage cheese from Sonya Sanford
Cottage cheese waffles from Busy in Brooklyn
Sweet, rich noodle kugel from Tori Avey
Polish cottage cheese dip from Kim Severson:
Simple sweet pancakes from AllRecipes.com
Cheese and tomato lasagna from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine