The Limburger Cheese Conspiracy

I originally wrote this story when I turned 60 in 2010. Maybe turning that big number made me nostalgic. Maybe remembering that my dad was 62 when he died was the motivation. I found the story the other day when going through some files, so I thought I’d share it with other Fabulous Over 60 women. If you have a story about your dad, please share it with us!

Hey, kid… want some Limburger cheese?

Of course, I wanted Limburger cheese! He was my dad and this was our special thing together. Limburger cheese – ripe, smelly, soggy cheese – placed between two small squares of rye bread with a thick slick of onion and brown mustard. What could be better?

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Other kids in Cincinnati might like to go to Frisch’s Big Boy or Graeter’s Ice Cream with their dads, but not me. I was the Limburger kid. I liked to think that there was only one daughter-dad duo in the whole world that liked to break out one of the smelliest cheese ever made* as a snack before dinner.

One of the main reasons I loved it so much was that my mom and siblings would run from the room yelling and screaming as he pulled it out of the refrigerator.

Not again, my brother would groan. Oh no, my sister would giggle. Please Joseph, you’ll ruin all of our dinners, my mom would say with absolutely no hope of changing his mind.

He would grin at me and wink. I would smile back. I was his co-conspirator.

First, of course, he had to mix up his Manhattan and get me my Coca-Cola. I didn’t know exactly what a Manhattan was at that young age, but I knew there was an art to mixing just the right alcohols together and that he seemed to really enjoy doing it. It was hands-down the most perfect drink to have with Limburger cheese, he would tell me. (I learned later that the true German drink – the one his ancestors would have approved – was beer.)

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My job was to get out the rye bread and mustard. He would slice the onion. The slices had to be “just so” – thick enough to crunch and yet small enough to fit on the tiny brown bread squares.

And then, it was time for the unveiling. Limburger cheese was always wrapped tightly in multiple layers of paper. Dad bought it at the butcher shop where he worked part time in the evenings, so he knew exactly what to buy and how to make sure it didn’t stink up mom’s refrigerator before we were ready to eat it. He also bought just enough for the two of us, because there was no way that mom would let him re-wrap it.

As he carefully began to peel back the paper, the smell would spread through the kitchen and waft its way into every other room in the house. Soon, 3237 Vittmer Avenue smelled like rotten cheese.

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Yuck, my sister would groan. Oh, please, my brother would whine. Eat it fast, mom would plead.

And we would. We would sit at the kitchen table, make several sandwiches each and begin our feast. We both knew that the aftermath would not be pretty. We knew that we would burp up that smell many times over the course of the next few hours. We knew that no one would want to get close to us for at least a day. We knew that dinner – no matter what it was – would not taste very good. But, so what?

For me, the times that I ate slimy, smelly Limburger cheese and onion sandwiches with my dad were some of the most special times of my life.   And, as I remember the twinkle in his eye and the grin on his face, I know he felt the same way.

Cathy Green

* Limburger has been described as a semi-soft cheese with a powerful aroma reminiscent of dirty socks!! Here it is at #7 on the list of the world’s 10 stinkiest cheeses…