Food is a delicious, vital piece of existence from which we’ve conjured countless culinary concoctions. All in the name of nourishment, our relationship with food and drink is as complex and diverse as human beings are. We need it to live, so why not figure out all sorts of ways to make it more delicious? What lengths might you go to make food taste better?
It’s common in the world of wine for vintners to be rather particular about the winemaking process. Like, an old vine Carignan wine is 100% Carignan grapes from vines that were planted in 1900. Never mind farming style, grape pressing, and the like. That’s one of the innumerable wine varietals, but it’s fairly common knowledge that the particularities of the wine world are numerous. What we don’t hear enough about is the cheese world.
Emmental cheese is one of the most famous cheeses in Switzerland, a country that has lots of famed cheeses and a cheese named after it. Meet Beat Wampfler, a man who is very enthusiastic about his cheese. During the day, he’s a veterinarian, but when he leaves the office he switches from white coat to cheese apron. His cheese cellar is in Burgdorf, where he’s testing a theory that has had some people scratching their heads.
He’s testing whether playing different genres of music will make his cheese taste better. He has installed small speakers below several wheels of Emmental cheese, each playing music directly to the cheese as it ages. The project is called Sonic cheese: experience between sound and gastronomy and, though it sounds strange, it’s gaining research support from a Swiss University.
It’s not a very far stretch either. For instance, most plants will only flourish in soil with a pH level between 6.2 to 6.8, among countless other environmental factors. We readily accept much more complex things as facts, though we might not understand them. So, why is it so difficult to make a reasonable hypothesis that postulates that playing music for your cheese will make it taste better? Because it certainly can’t hurt it.
“Sounds, ultrasounds or music can also have physical effects,” Wampfler said.
The University of the Arts at Bern was agreed to help Wampfler with his research, aiming for some manner of measurable data.
“At first we were skeptical, then we discovered there is a field called sonochemistry that looks at the influences of sound waves, the effect of sound on solid bodies,” said Michael Harenburg, the university’s music director.
From A Tribe Called Quest to Led Zeppelin to Mozart, and whatever else is queued up, the game is afoot and as the cheese matures over the next several months, one can only hope that their hypothesis checks out. In the meantime, it’s playlist curation and a waiting game.
“Will the cheese taste better? It’s hard to say. I hope that the hip-hop cheese will be the best,” Wampfler says.
That’s a lot to invest in an experiment on cheese, but anything is possible in the name of food. If you’re part of the 73% of July 4th grillmasters or the 60% of Memorial Day BBQ afficiandos who think you know a thing or two about gastronomy, we’re willing to bet Wampfler has you beat. Take notes.
In the spring, Wampfler’s cheese will be tested and judged by a panel of expert cheese tasters, a job which sounds like a dream come true. We brie-live in you, Beat.