I have loved other cheeses before – and will love still more in the future – but I thought you should know how I feel about you right now. Let me count the reasons you’ve earned my most ardent love:
You don’t have airs and graces, dear feta. I can take you as a date to anyone’s house – in a bowl of greens, in a potato salad, or even crumbled over some roasted veg – and you will be genuinely welcomed.
When I’m down and need a pick-me-up, your simple, salty innocence makes me feel whole again.
You don’t need to be peeled, blanched, kneaded or otherwise painstakingly prepared. You’re right there – all I have to do is snap off the plastic tab, pop open the lid, and voilà! (Although I do have to be careful not to lever you out with anything other than a clean fork, lest your brine become weirdly milky.)
I know looks aren’t important, but you are something to behold. You’re pale and interesting, yet you’ve got real substance and texture. You’re yielding to the touch, yet can be slightly firmer or softer, depending on your mood.
Sometimes I plan a whole meal around you, and then open your container at the last minute to find only half a wedge floating desultorily in the liquid. This somehow makes you even more appealing, you big tease.
Whether I have a cupful of leftover vegetables, some lonely spaghetti strands or even a slice of bread, you can come in and save the day with your perfect little cubes or lovely creamy crumble. You are equally at home on pizzas as in salads, and you can be baked in a giant mushroom cap or even broken up into a cheese sauce. Anything goes.
Others may judge you, feta, but you never do the same. I can eat you straight out of the container, sneak blocks of you off the cutting board before you reach your destination, and even steal you out of the salad when no-one is looking, but you’d never tell.
I know you’re hardly flavour of the month these days, but you’ve stood the test of time. When you first started appearing in salads, you lifted mere iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato to new culinary heights (which wasn’t difficult), but you can still do that, feta, whether it’s with this retro combination or with your new-age friends of quinoa, organic pickled beetroot, foraged kale and artisanal toasted seeds – served in a glass mason jar, of course.
Even in the saddest Spar in my neighbourhood – in a land of pink polony and white bread, where I’m never able to find baby spinach, basil pesto or even free-range eggs – you will still be there. Gleaming in the fridge, surrounded by rough-hewn yellow riffraff fronting as ‘cheese’, offering redemption.
Indulge in some feta worship of your own with these recipes: