Cottage Cheese Deserves a Comeback

published Aug 27, 2015
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(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

I always have a soft spot for the underdog. Even when it comes to eating, it’s the uncool foods that make me cheer, the ones you’re not reading about in magazines, or seeing celebrities gush over on the Internet. Like, for example, cottage cheese.

Oh, poor cottage cheese. While yogurt has whole supermarket aisles dedicated to it, cookbooks full of ways to use it, and everyone talking about how good it is, cottage cheese has gone from being a snack-time staple to nearly invisible. It’s time for this neglect to end! Cottage cheese deserves a comeback.

NPR recently talked about the falling popularity of cottage cheese, which some cheese-making experts attribute to the difficulty of making it — cottage cheese making is apparently a delicate and precise business — but also to its old-fashioned reputation. Richard Nixon adored the stuff, which doesn’t really help with its image problem.

Reading this got me thinking about my own history with cottage cheese. I was born at the tail end of the 1970s, the heyday of cottage cheese, so I ate the stuff early and often, in ways that will probably sound vaguely horrifying, especially if you did not live through that time: cottage cheese and canned peaches, cottage cheese mixed into green Jell-O before chilling, cottage cheese and sliced bananas … the list goes on.

When I moved away for college and started buying my own groceries, cottage cheese rarely made it onto the shopping list, and I only really thought about it while perusing the menus at old-fashioned diners, giggling over the “diet” option of a scoop of cottage cheese on a lettuce leaf instead of fries.

(Image credit: U.S. National Archives)

But then I moved in with the man who is now my husband, a man with the enviable problem of never being able to gain weight no matter how much he ate. Protein Man was his name and full-fat cottage cheese was his game. He introduced me to the slightly trashy, totally delicious snack of potato chips dipped in cottage cheese, which inspired one of my favorite super-quick lunches: dipping raw vegetables and crackers in cottage cheese. And thus my love was renewed.

Now I like it pretty much any way you might use yogurt: topped with granola and fruit; dolloped onto a pureed soup; or mixed with diced cucumber, salt, and pepper. It’s tart like yogurt, but also a little salty, with a texture that makes it a little more satisfying. You can even find cultured versions with the same probiotics as yogurt, if that’s what is keeping you away from cottage cheese.

But if you are keeping your distance because of cottage cheese’s uncool reputation, think of it instead as getting in on the ground floor of its eventual comeback. After all, cottage cheese is tailor-made for the dietary obsessions of 2015: it’s a snack that is high in protein, gluten-free, and doesn’t require extra sugar to make it taste good. Remember a decade ago when nearly everybody thought Brussels sprouts were disgusting and old-fashioned, and now they are everywhere?

Cottage cheese: hoping to be bigger than Brussels sprouts. Talk about underdog goals.

Are you on Team Cottage Cheese? How do you like to eat it?