You know how NPR’s Morning Edition plays that transition jingle while they give some light news, some quick blurb from the wire to sound all cheery as they lead to the next feature? The music was going the other morning, and just before the final duhhh-DUH! the words “cottage cheese” caught my attention. I replayed the last few seconds before my short-term memory congealed in order for my conscious mind to process it, and I pieced together that the filler wasn’t along the lines I had expected: it wasn’t about some health-nut summer help mistaking coagulating primer for cottage cheese or a Wisconsin cow producing the most chive cottage cheese or whatever. It concerned a real national cottage cheese crisis. NPR thought it was funny.
I didn’t. I eat cottage cheese, perhaps more than most people. I eat it three times a day, on average, with a little honey or jam, and I’ve been eating it at that clip for the past eight years or so. It’s my way of enjoying most of the protein called for in the Body for Life diet, which I’ve been on for over a decade. You eat like a hobbit – i.e., six times a day, which I like – to keep the metabolism motoring, you exercise most days, and you forget about it all once a week, which I also like. I keep my fridge well stocked with cottage cheese because the no-salt-added variety is hard to find (the other kinds are so yucky), and we’ve had some shortages of late. Here’s my fridge five minutes ago, for example:
Okay, the nation in crisis was Israel, half a world away. The price of cottage cheese has gone sky high over there recently, so the Israeli consumers organized a boycott through Facebook with over 105,000 participants that, a few days after NPR’s derisive blurb, happened to have brought the price down twenty-five percent.
BusinessWeek as well as NPR in its later, slightly more-developed story yukked it up at Israel’s expense, both comparing Israel’s boycott unfavorably to the Arab world’s heroic use of Facebook to galvanize support for revolution. The Jerusalem Post, Judas-like, was even worse, touching on almost every revolution I’ve ever heard of, and a few others I hadn’t, before describing the cottage cheese revolution in mock-heroic terms (though I did see fit to steal the Post’s clever reference to Curdistan).
Israel lives in a tough neighborhood, tougher than mine, for sure, where at least most weeks you can find the stuff on grocery shelves at a reasonable price.
Though things got rough here last winter. The dairy guy at Safeway, one of the few chains around here that carries no salt added, took off several months to battle cancer. No one seemed capable of taking his place. I made two or three trips there a week in hopes of getting just a tub or two of the stuff. I ended up having to visit three grocery stores a week in a not-always successful effort keep up my weekly, ten-tub quota. I felt guilty because I was more concerned about my stomach than I was about the guy’s cancer, though I had never met him. So less cottage cheese, and guilt to boot.
But the Israelis don’t do guilt, at least not at the national level, and they’ve put up with a lot of shortages and high prices over the years. I have friends over there, and they stoically pay a fortune for housing, gas, and other essentials. But a high price for cottage cheese throws them over the edge.
Most of my American friends, particularly guys, are wimps about this. Israelis, who have mandatory military service and have lived under threat of war since their independence, aren’t. You don’t see them squinching up their nose and saying they just don’t like the texture.
I know it looks like barf. But it doesn’t smell like barf, and it doesn’t taste much like it, either. I don’t see the humor in all this.