Growing up, if it was Sunday, there was always football on the TV and appetizers on the table. The Bears were the center of the day, but the food was a close second. Cheese and crackers, pigs in a blanket, cocktail meatballs and summer sausage were always available with there sometimes being a pizza and wings as well. As a kid this meant that I was most likely not going to have to eat a decent dinner as I was being given full permission to stuff my face with garbage all day while we watched football. So while I have extremely fond memories of those days, and try to continue the tradition with my own family (being my wife and dog at the moment), it wouldn’t be until years later that I would realize the true power of those Sundays…
Fast forward to 2002, my summer between Sophomore/Junior year of college. Having just moved into my first apartment with a buddy, money and food were always a luxury. I had enough money to cover whatever I wanted to eat, but being 20 and out on my own meant that I could just eat that same garbage I ate on those football Sundays, only now I could do it whenever I pleased; plus by not spending a lot on food, I had more money for alcohol. Knowing that, it was all hot dogs, cheese sticks, grilled cheese, spreadable cheese and crackers, pizza and fried bologna. Yeah… don’t get me started on that last one. I know it sounds gross, but it’s actually quite tasty, so much so that you can actually feel your arteries closing with every bite. Aside from the fried bologna there’s an obvious trend here… cheese. I wouldn’t even call myself a lover of cheese because my love of cheese doesn’t extend further than cheddar, mozzarella and sometimes provolone; I would have said American, but that’s technically not a cheese, but rather a “cheese product”.
Out of all of the cheeses above there’s only one that would change my life forever… the spreadable cheese, Merkts spreadable cheese to be exact. I came home one day to find my roommate David had taken it upon himself to eat quite a bit of the Merkts I had in the fridge. He apparently didn’t know where it came from, but was super excited when he saw it because it’s the same cheese they use at Buff Joe’s in Evanston on their cheddar chips (among other things). He had apparently been searching for it for years, but could never find it in the stores around us. I’m honestly not sure which stores he was going to because I’d been buying it at Jewel for years and it’s not like it’s hidden away in some special aisle. But it wasn’t until David brought it to my attention that I realized I had happened upon something so special.
Today, Merkts cheddar cheese is like a delicacy in restaurants. It’s always prominently mentioned on the menu where most of the time chedder cheese is just listed as that, cheddar cheese. But when a restaurant offers Merkts Cheddar it’s proudly displayed as such. So while I’ve been eating the stuff on crackers for years, I never realized it was the same cheese I knew and loved from the Buff Joe’s cheddar chips. And even when I found out it was the same brand of cheese, I just assumed there was some other version of it that these restaurants were using on their burgers and fries since there’s no way it was the same spreadable version I was using… but it turns out there is no other type of Merkts Cheddar that I can find, so it must be the same. Personally I haven’t tried to heat up the spreadable cheese I have at home to apply to burgers, fries, and whatever else I can find, but I imagine with summer coming and the BBQ being fired up, I’ll be dipping into the Merkts reserve very soon.