2 Dec 2023

Sam and Ellie Studd: How to love cheese

From Saturday Morning, 11:40 am on 2 December 2023
Close up of three adult sisters snacking from cheese board (Photo by Deborah Kolb / Image Source / Image Source via AFP)


Brother and sister duo Sam and Ellie Studd's new book The Best Things In Life Are Cheese aims to help us understand and appreciate cheese in all its many forms.

They're about as close to cheese royalty as you get, their father is legendary expert Will Studd.

As cheese guides, Sam and Ellie cover the basics like how to pick a good one, tips for Christmas platters, plus recipes for cheesy treats.

"I think that cheese for me ... any food category, it tells a lot about a culture and a narrative of the history, and I think you can learn a lot about a body of people through what they eat and cheese is no different," Sam told Susie Ferguson.

"For example if you look at an alpine style cheese, it's hard, it's low low moisture cheese, it's a cheese that's designed to give you sustenance over the winter periods when there's the heavy winters and it's a true reflection of the place in that aspect.

Photo: MacMillan

"Whereas something like a brie for example ... is something from a countryside which is always quite plush and and it's not quite as harsh, so you can eat that cheese all year round, or even something like a pecorina romano or a Sardinian cheese, that's quite a hard dry hot cheese and that's a reflection of the environment. And I think it's interesting to look at the interplay between the culture and what that represents.

Enjoying cheese offers an opportunity to go on a journey discovering those features, and to enjoy that with other people, he says.

"I think food as a narrative is something like a modern day church, so you can sit down and you can communicate and talk about where the cheese is from, the historical aspects from it, and use that as a melting pot to help understand and create a story and a narrative and create some bonding over that as well."

Ellie recommends building up a relationship with your local cheesemonger, who is there to communicate the stories attached to the cheeses and the experiences each cheese might present.

Ellie and Sam Studd Photo: MacMillan

"In the book we compare it to sex," she says.

"So smelling, touch, feel, and being present for what you're tasting, and also taste is so subjective - so first up, do I like it? How long is it lasting in my mouth for? Is it going to the back of my palate? But being really present for that taste and that smell.

"Cheese is sexy. So I think it starts with your cheesemonger. But if there's no cheesemonger there, what are some clues that you can navigate at your cheese counter? And start to have your own affair, without a monger."

Sam also says it's okay to realise there will be some cheeses that you won't like: "move on. Find something else."

And for those whose favourite cheeses are supermarket blocks of colby, cheddar or shredded cheese in a bag, Ellie recommends just trying something new: "There's a time and place for all cheese, I say".

"I still enjoy a little bit of block cheddar once in a while," Sam says. "We can all agree that cheese is delicious.

"But there's a whole other world out there. So if you do like that sort of commodity-based cheese then you're really going to enjoy exploring the artisinal world a bit, too."

When weighing up the negative reputation cheese has in health and dietary terms, cheese actually has a lot going for it in terms of its nutritional density, and the sense of fullness it provides, Ellie says.

Some of Sam and Ellie's tips to exploring cheese:

  • Use your senses when picking a cheese - consider its colouring, does the smell appeal to you?
  • Look for quality packaging, eg brie in a wooden box or cheese in waxed paper, labels that mention 'farmstead'
  • Shops with high stock rotation are more likely to have high quality cheeses
  • Store your cheese right - don't store it in plastic; cheesepaper is ideal and baking paper is also good, cut back a layer to let it 'breathe', store it in the vegetable compartment of the fridge