I take pride in the fact I'm a native York countian.
I get all puffed up about York County from time to time. I can't help it.
Take into consideration, too, that my ancestors (on my mother's side) were dairy farmers -- Holsteins and Guernseys, I believe. From childhood, I spent plenty of time in the dairy barn helping to milk and hanging out with the dairy cattle.
In fact, one of the dairy farms that lie at the bottom of the lake at Codorus State Park was my grandparents' farm.
Which leads me to my family's long-held motto: "There is no such thing as too many potatoes or too much cheese." Maybe it's a farm thing, or a York County thing, or maybe it's just a Brown/Hicks family thing.
Regardless, it is a motto we hold dear.
I tell you this so you'll understand, while I'm no expert on dairy farming, or farming in general, I certainly have some experience in it that most people do not have.
But not enough, apparently.
One of my co-workers, a product of upstate New York, brought to my attention -- in a most unpleasant way, I must say -- that New York state has it all over York County when it comes to food.
Naturally, I took exception.
And then she went on this 10-minute rant about how since she's lived in York County -- about two years -- she hasn't been able to find a "decent cheese curd," never mind "poutine," which I came to find out is french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy that is considered a delicacy in Quebec, Canada, and upstate New York.
I must have looked dumbfounded.
I immediately thought she meant something like a cottage cheese curd, which I consider an abomination in appearance and taste.
But no, she meant "cheese curd."
What's that? I asked.
Wrong question. "What do you mean, what's that?" she asked. Like she thought she was speaking to some ignorant hillbilly named Billy Ray or some such.
So I asked again, what's that?
And she said, "What? You've never eaten a cheese curd?"
To which I responded: "Not only have I never eaten a cheese curd, but I don't believe I've ever seen a cheese curd. I wouldn't know a cheese curd if I sat on one."
Reference again the first half-dozen paragraphs of this column having to do with my dairy farm experience as a youth. I love cheese, so how could I never have eaten a cheese curd? Worse, how could I not know what a cheese curd was?
In an attempt to gloss over the fact I didn't know what a cheese curd was, I told her about my farm experiences, days spent butchering, how I'd helped make and eat such farm delicacies as hog maw, scrapple, pudding, souse, mush and pon haus.
I was no namby-pamby beginner on this oddball farm stuff. I didn't like it all, but at least I knew what it was.
She wasn't the slightest bit impressed -- she had me on cheese curd, and she knew it.
After sitting through a long lecture about the beauty of cheese curd, how it's made in New York State and how it's considered a culinary delight where she comes from, I was forced to ask her -- for the 10th time -- about cheese curd.
I assumed it was a byproduct of making cheese, but I didn't know any of the details.
As it turns out, cheese curds are the solid parts of soured milk, sometimes referred to as "squeaky cheese" because of its rubbery texture. The curds can be used as a nibbling snack of cheddar, in cooking, eaten alone or in any number of dishes. Mostly, cheese curds are popular in northeastern and midwestern United States and Canada.
OK, now I knew what it was. I just couldn't figure why I'd never heard of it.
Well, as it turns out, I've never heard of it because dairy farmers in York County do not produce cheese curd. In Lancaster County, yes. Over there it's considered artisan cheese, something fancy schmancy, I guess. You can find it over there with some ease. But in York County, no way.
I know this because I went to the Central Market and talked to every farmer I could find. Not one of them knew of anyone in York County making cheese curd. I called a couple of dairy farmers, and they didn't know of anyone in York County making cheese curd, either.
OK, they do not make cheese curd in York County. I don't like it, but I accept it. I'm ignorant about cheese curd for a good reason -- my cheese education is incomplete.
Which is too bad because now I'm addicted to cheese curd -- thanks to my New York friend going home now and again for a visit and bringing me a container of cheese curd on the return trip.
Yancey's Fancy, New York's Artisan Cheese. Good stuff. Squeaky when cold, squeakier at room temperature. And tasty as all get out.
Here I sit with an empty cheese curd container in my hand and no place to go for refills.
Three hundred years of dairy farming excellence here in York County, but not a cheese curd to be found anywhere -- not even a tiny one.
It's depressing. Really it is.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.