Early this afternoon, I went to the grocery store. The last item on my list was cheese. As I leaned over to inspect the expiration dates on the bags of cheese hanging in the chilled dairy section, I felt someone behind me.
“Excuse me. Where is the Hispanic cheese?”
I stood upright, turned around and saw an older lady staring at me. I glanced around the aisle. We were the only two people present. “Um, I’m sorry. What are you looking for?”
“The Hispanic cheese,” she said, before placing her hands on her hips. Her left foot tapped impatiently. “I’m looking for the Hispanic cheese.”
I felt confused. What on earth was she talking about? I had never heard of “Hispanic” cheese. I looked at the “Four Cheese Mexican” bag of cheese that I had been eyeing for my enchiladas and pointed at it. “Is that what you’re talking about?”
She looked at me as if I was a moron, before exhaling in frustration. “No, I’m looking for Hispanic cheese. Not that stuff.”
“Well, Ma’am,” I said politely, trying to suppress my growing irritation. I was in a rush. All I wanted was a bag of cheese for the enchiladas that I was making for dinner. My clothes didn’t remotely resemble the grocery store employees’ uniforms. So why was this lady hassling me? “I don’t work here. Maybe you should ask an employee to help you.”
“But aren’t you Mexican?” She snapped out her question.
“No,” I said evenly, before grabbing my bag of inferior cheese and walking away.
Now, I’m not a foodie. I’m a meat and potatoes girl, which is sad, considering my parents are originally from India. So I’m pretty basic and provincial when it comes to venturing into the realm of exotic cheeses. On those rare days that I actually do cook, I stick with the standard cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss. It’s an exciting day in cheese land when I pick up a bag of pre-mixed Queso.
On my way back from the store, I was ready to rant about this. I mean, in my mind, this was the stupidest thing I had ever heard of. “Hispanic” cheese. Is this really a thing? Do we need to be politically correct about dairy now? Fortunately, some of my friends on Facebook pointed out that this really is a category of cheeses. According to the California Milk Advisory Board, there are twenty-five types of “Hispanic-style” cheeses. Go figure.
I felt even more humiliated when I looked up information on Hispanic cheese and found an article mocking a Fox News correspondent for exhibiting the same cheese-ignorance. Although in his case, the Fox News guy was disturbed by what he perceived as a segregation of cheeses. Now, I’m not a fan of Fox News AT ALL, but I understand the confusion about this. While I try to be racially sensitive, there are some days when the racial pendulum swings from outright racism (as I witnessed earlier this year) to politically correct absurdity. My first instinct when I heard about “Hispanic” cheese was that it was another example of political correctness running amok.
But I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong. Not everything has evil overtones. Sometimes a cheese is just a cheese. Or in this case, a Hispanic cheese.