My dad loved all cheese.
He would go crazy over a new cheese and insist I try it. Some cheeses were drool-worthy and others had me running for my life. I’ll never forget the day he brought home a brick of Limburger.
My dad had just arrived home and a new smell was floating into my room. This was nothing new. He’d been sharing his food adventures with me since I can remember. But this smell was like no other.
My dad was a police officer. On his evening break, at 8 p.m., he’d grab some food from an ethnic restaurant or the cheese counter and bring it home. I was the only one in my family willing to try anything he brought home and I cherished these moments with my dad.
I’d hear the front door shut and wait for my room to be enveloped with the smell of whatever he was eating—my room was next to the kitchen. I’d sneak out of my bed and tiptoe into the kitchen and crawl up on his lap and he’d give me bites of his dinner. We did this in silence. If my mother heard, I’d be sent right back to bed.
The night of the Limburger cheese, the smell that crept into my room was not food. It was more like someone with really stinky feet had taken off their shoes in the car and stuck them on the vent—a horrid smell! A dirty rotten foot smell.
I peeked around the corner and into the kitchen and there was my dad hunched over a piece of foil paper with a small brick of cheese, sliced onions, and some rye bread. But where was the horrible smell coming from? His shoes were on? No one else was there. I was puzzled, but I wanted cheese.
Before the Limburger incident, my dad brought home a brick of Havarti cheese and giant lavash crackers. He broke the cracker into pieces and cut thick slices of Havarti on top and baked them in the oven. They were luscious, rich full of buttery goodness. I declared it was my new favorite cheese.
Thinking my dad was eating Havarti, I made the quick dash to his lap. There was a pause—he didn’t offer me anything. I pointed at the cheese. He cut a piece and handed it to me. I took one whiff and ran screaming from the room, “That’s not cheese!” and spent the next five minutes washing the smell off my hand.
It took me a long time to get over the Limburger cheese incident, but it was also the moment when I realized cheese is amazing. I’m still not a fan of Limburger and know there are worse smelling cheeses out there like Grayson or Epoisses (which is banned from public transit in France), but Havarti remains one of my favorites. It’s comfort cheese. Cheese you eat when you want something easy and melty. Cheese that reminds you of butter.
Heavenly “Buttery” Havarti Cheese Crackers
24 water crackers or lavash crackers (I use Carr or Lahvosh)
1 lb. Havarti cheese, sliced into 24 pieces
Optional toppings: pepperoni slices, fresh dill or pickles, sundried tomatoes, green olives, and artichokes.
Preheat oven to 375º.
Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper and place 12 of the crackers (or break the lavash into smaller pieces) evenly spaced out. Top with a piece of cheese and any optional toppings and bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted. Cool slightly and serve. Repeat with remaining cheese and crackers.
Lisa Erickson is a food columnist who loves adventure and food. You can find more recipes by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.