Recently, my daughter brought up the subject of cottage cheese for some reason. Maybe she was telling me it was disgusting - that sounds likely, at least to me.
Perhaps I can't remember her point because I have a mental block about cottage cheese that goes back to childhood forced marches over plates of this particular dairy product.
In response to her conversational gambit, I described the side dish that my mother often served with supper: A pile of cottage cheese topped by a few sliced cling peaches.
My parents seemed to adore this combination, but we kids hated it. I ate a lot of cottage cheese and cling peaches when I was a child, but not since. My daughter was shocked, I tell you - shocked. I used the opportunity to tell her that she was extremely lucky that I didn't serve that up to her. She said she would refuse to eat it. And honestly, I wouldn't make her. I never force my kids to eat anything.
I refuse to make or buy cottage cheese to this day. Any dish that includes cottage cheese in the ingredients list, such as lasagna, is substituted with ricotta. When I wrote about my childhood cottage cheese nightmares on my website, I found that I'm not alone. Many of us who were raised by parents of the 1960s know this cottage cheese side dish well. And, I learned, it had its variations.
At your house, it might have been cottage cheese and peaches. Or maybe it was pears. There may have been a maraschino cherry on top or a leaf of iceberg lettuce on the bottom.
Or maybe there was even a ring of pineapple instead of peaches or pears - and a banana rising merrily from its middle to make a "candlestick" salad.
Where did this cottage cheese concoction originate? I browsed a random collection of cookbooks spanning the last hundred years and found nary a mention of it. I tried the almighty Internet and found what may be our answer!
A March 7, 1960, piece in Life Magazine reads, "Look what you can do with cottage cheese and cling peaches!" The article goes on to suggest several ways to make this "All-American favorite" both a side dish and even a main dish. Photos show the lettuce leaf on bottom, with ideas for additional toppings such as cubes of "rosy gelatin." It's the perfect "spring tonic" for any menu! And so the mystery is presumably solved, or at least as solved as far as my shallow research can attest.
Our mothers took Life's advice to heart, like an army of cottage cheese and cling peach fighters, and we were their prisoners of war at the supper table. On the upside, it gave us all a communal commiseration point and a reason to be glad Life Magazine ceased publication. Or there is no telling what our own children would be eating now!
Writer Suzanne McMinn lives in Roane County, where she writes every day in her blog, Chickens in the Road, at www.chickensintheroad.com.