How far along are you? Lentil (six weeks)? Lime (twelve weeks)? Leek (a whopping 38 weeks)?
Better question: do you find the goofy emails letting you know what piece of produce your fetus currently resembles to be as off-base as I do? I mean, come on. No way does my baby go from a rutabaga to a wimpy scallion in a week. Have you ever even seen a scallion, BabyCenter? A twenty-six week old fetus eats alliums like that for breakfast.
The produce-as-incubated chart seems nearly ubiquitous among us breeders. It’s adorable at first (my little peanut! baby is a whole peach this week!), but I soon grew weary of the not-quite-accurate fruits and veg my growing baby was compared to. For one, there’s the wild discrepancy between individual pieces of produce themselves– I mean, are we talking a wee heirloom green zebra tomato, or a fertilizer-fed big honkin’ beefsteak? Plus, you know what’s better than head of lettuce? A whole wheel of cheese.
Armed with the belief that cheese > all things, especially lettuce, and a pretty solid working knowledge of the weight of individual cheese wheels (or in the case of the early weeks, the weight of bits and bobs of cheese), I correlated estimated fetal weight by week with the weights of wheels of delicious, delicious cheese. So now you can tell people your growing babe is the size of a wheel of meaty, savory cow’s milk cheese, handcrafted by members of the (THE) vonTrapp family, rather than a sad Idaho Gold.
I started at eight weeks because before that, your embryo is basically a speck of casein protein floating amidst individual fat globules. Here, my friends, are your cheeses:
Week 8: Grain of Ricotta
Weighing in at a whole gram, your cheesy embryo is about the size of one of the grains of ricotta that gets stuck to the cheesecloth as you strain it– in other words, tiny, mild, and totally unripened.
Week 9: Cottage Cheese Curd
Hey, your embryo doesn’t have a tail anymore, weighs a couple of grams, but is now the size of a whole cottage cheese curd!
Week 10: Perle Mozzarella
Kumquats are fine and all, but I’d rather have a bitty ball of mozzarella growing in my belly.
Week 11: Cheddar Cheese Curd
Since your fetus has started to hiccup this week, it’s only right that it would be the size of a squeaky cheddar curd.
Week 12: Marinated Ciliegine
Sure, this ciliegine is basically the same cheese as the perle above, just coated in herbs, but fetal development at this stage doesn’t leave me with a lot to work with. Hey, herbs!
Week 13: Chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano
Phew! As we leave the first trimester, we get to head into the good stuff, like the chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano that weighs about as much as a fetus at 13 weeks– nearly an ounce.
Week 14: Cabecou en Feuille
A sweet little disc of goat cheese, dotted with peppercorns and wrapped in leaves macerated in a fruity eau-de-vie– that’s my idea of a solid week 14. Also, your fetus can pee this week.
Week 15: Vermont Creamery’s Bijou
Would you look at the rind on that! Delightful buttons of Vermont Creamery’s soft-ripened goat’s milk Bijou line up perfectly with 15 weeks of gestation. Since morning sickness is on its way out the door for most people at this stage, I highly recommend a Bijou or four to make up for lost cheese-eating time.
Week 16: Rivers Edge Chevre Up in Smoke
Nuggets of dreamy goat cheese wrapped in maple leaves and spritzed with bourbon before smoking are the closest you’re going to get to either bourbon or smoking for a while, so celebrate your hundred-gram fetus with a round of Rivers Edge Chevre’s Up in Smoke.
Week 17: Prairie Fruits Farm Angel Food
I very distinctly remember the first time I tasted this cheese, on the top of a butcher block in the classroom overlooking the counter at Murray’s Bleecker Street store. “YOU GUYS!” I am pretty sure I yelled, “THIS PASTE. You have to touch this paste. It– it– it– it quivers.” Also, this is maybe my favorite cheese description that I ever wrote:
Amidst the sprawling soybeans and copious cornfields of central Illinois, if you listen closely you can hear an occasional bleat or baa and can sometimes catch the scent of just-formed curd on a warm breeze. Here you’ll find Prairie Fruits Farm, owned by soil scientists Wes Jarrel and Leslie Cooperband, just a few miles away from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where people take farming so seriously that they built their library below ground so as not to block the on-campus corn plots from sunlight. Leslie and Wes take the care of their land and creation of their cheese just as seriously, as the first farmstead goat cheese makers in the state—and their attention to detail shows. The carefully hand-ladled curd lends the paste a supple, delicate texture, which slowly ripens to near liquidity, only just held in by a paper-thin white rind. Prairie Fruits’ herd of Nubian and LaMancha goats graze among the berry brambles and fruit trees, producing exceptional milk whose quality shines in the clean, lactic finish with a hint of milky sweetness. Honor its Midwestern roots with a lemony wheat beer.
If you listen closely, she says. Just formed curd, she says. Oh, boy. Good thing this fetus in my belly is half-Illinoisian.
Week 18: Vermont Creamery Coupole
I’d say the delicate wrinkly rind on Vermont Creamery’s soft-ripened goat dome Coupole very nearly resembles the velvety, squishy skin of a newborn sprinkled with a fine layer of baby powder. Except baby powder is a major no-no for newborns (and babies in utero, I’d imagine), and everything about Coupole and its clean, citric tang and subtle minerality is a definite yes-yes.
Week 19: Jasper Hill Farm Harbison
Did you register for three wheels of Jasper Hill Farm’s Harbison, a cow’s milk custard bomb encased in a mushroomy, living, breathing rind and bound with a belt of spruce cambium that imparts just enough of a woodsy aroma to make you feel like you went camping, but with hot showers? No? Well, you have about twenty-one weeks to rectify that.
Week 20: Capriole Piper’s Pyramide
Let’s be real: we WISH our halfway-done fetuses looked as gorgeous as a Piper’s Pyramide (named after maker Judith Schad’s granddaughter, how perfect is that?!), a goat milk treasure boasting a fresh, lactic paste encased by a thin, velveteen rind that just softens the sprinkling of paprika cozying up to the creamline. Crafted by Capriole Goat Cheese, just across the Indiana-Kentucky border from Louisville.
Week 21: Robiola di Capra en Foglie di Fico
Just as your baby is snugly encased in your growing belly, this Italian goat cheese ripens within the loving embrace of fresh fig leaves. And much like your wee one, this guy can pack a punch after weeks of ripening, transforming from a bright, tangy wheel to a molten dollop of vegetal goodness. That last part doesn’t really translate to your baby, but you get what I’m saying.
Week 22: Reblochon
Reblochon is said to have originated as cheese made from the milk left in the cow to cheat the farmer’s landlord out of his full tax. You know the old game– milk the cow, but not all the way, pay the tax on the not-quite-full milking, go back and get yours in the form of that left-behind milk. Sticking it to the man tastes inherently better than not, which is why Reblochon is so completely delicious and pretty much illegal in the US (jk, it’s because of moisture content and import laws). Incidentally, 22 weeks is the developmental stage that most experts recommend that you begin reading socialist tracts to your developing baby, in lieu of consuming soft, unpasteurized cheeses produced in countries with single payer health care programs. As always, consult your doctor before making this or any other parenting decision.
Week 23: Jasper Hill Farm Moses Sleeper
Moses Sleeper, so completely lovely. Downy rind, buttery paste redolent of roasted cauliflower, creamy beyond measure. Also, it has “sleep” in the name which lol babies and sleeping amirite?
Week 24: Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere
As if this list isn’t evidence enough, I, like much of the cheese world, have kiiiiiiind of a thing for the cheeses of Jasper Hill. Winnimere is the kind of cheese you want to eat, kiss, go swimming in, have raise your children, and be mayor of your town. Plus, the dang cheese is named WINNIE of all things and won the Best of Show award the very same year we took our Winnie to the American Cheese Society conference (ooooOOOOooooOOOOoooo spooky).
Week 25: Chaource
Chaource, a soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese from the eponymous French village, is a little like a small, spritely wheel of Brie decided to have a baby with a slice of cheesecake. It also has a lot in common with babies! For example, it’s been made since at least the Middle Ages, just like babies, it’s soft and mild, just like babies, and is generally eaten when young, just like babies! Yum.
Week 26: VonTrapp Farmstead Oma
The hills are alive with the sound of the end of your second trimester coming to a crashing halt. Hope you didn’t get used to all that lack-of-nausea and cute-baby-bump business– this fetus is about to start kickin’ you in the ribs, woo hoo! Placate the imminent heartburn with the savory, umami-laden meatiness of vonTrapp Farmstead Oma, carefully ripened by the experts at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. If you’re one of those people who likes to live dangerously and occasionally consume a portion of an alcoholic beverage during your final trimester, pair that Green Mountain goo-bomb (what did I just say?!) with a few sips of a Trappist ale like Orval.
Week 27: Tete de Moine
This cheese is named “Head of Monk” and you serve it by putting it on the above wacky contraption and shaving tiny rosettes which is like giving a monk a haircut and then eating his hair and I don’t know what else I can possibly say about this except that it kind of tastes like Gruyere and also hey there third trimester.
Week 28: Brie Fermier
Brie seems ubiquitous in the States, but real Brie, that is, authentic Brie de Meaux, is actually illegal for sale or import into the US. By law, name protected Brie must be made from raw milk, and for quality purposes cannot be ripened beyond the requisite 60 days required by US law for raw milk cheeses. Have no fear! Excellent pasteurized versions exist, like this Brie Fermier, or farmstead Brie from Ferme de Jouvence– the Farm of Rejuvenation or literally, the Farm of Youth. Youth! Like a baby!
PS: Here is a photo of me feeding cheese from this same farm to my dear sweet niece when she was five months old without her mother’s knowledge. I am a terrible aunt.
Week 29: Consider Bardwell Manchester
Consider Bardwell’s Manchester, a raw goat milk jewel from a bucolic farm that straddles the New York-Vermont state line, just might be the cheese that made my babies. That sounds weird, huh? It was the first cheese I bought at Murray’s before I’d moved to New York– the cheese that led me to apply there, which led me to a job there, etc., etc., and then I met my husband in a cheese cave, etc., etc., babies. (When visiting Consider Bardwell years ago, I thought I’d lost my engagement ring [OH MY GOD IS IT IN THE CHEESE VAT?!] but it was just in my pocket. Also on that trip I almost ran into a chicken crossing the road.) #coolstorybro
Week 30: Pecorino Foglie di Noce
Birth and cheese are all about timing, and nowhere does this ring more true than with Pecorino Foglie di Noce from Emilia Romagna. The raw sheep milk cheese (aroma: fresh cut timber + wet stone + rain on a wool sweater) is aged in barrels of walnut leaves that must be gathered during a precise window, meaning the cheese can be aged but twice a year. Two times a year probably still seems like too many times for a mom gestating a baby, especially in her third trimester. Luckily, aged cheeses are packed with the protein and fats that a growing fetus needs!
Week 31: Fourme d’Ambert
Fourme d’Ambert, an amiable cow’s milk blue from central France, is delightfully pleasant, but its real outstanding quality in this context is that it could almost certainly be smushed into the shape of a baby and secured on your chest in a Baby Bjorn should you ever need to smuggle a few pounds of blue cheese into a Music Together class.
Week 32: Tomme Crayeuse
Cheeky mongers like to call this cheese “Tom Cruise” but I refuse because I think that’s mean to this cheese. It’s like lions mane mushrooms cooked for a million hours in a broth made exclusively of Kewpie mayo + alfafa + loam. In other words, some healthy pregnancy cravings + pica.
Week 33: Meadow Creek Grayson
Meadow Creek Grayson can be funkier than a Diaper Genie, more yellow than a wicked case of jaundice, and more umami-laden than breastmilk (I’ve heard). It’s all raw milk all the time, given kindly by sweet Jersey mama cows in Galax, Virginia, so it’s the perfect post-baby gift for those moms who abstained from the good stuff for 40ish weeks. (Note: BabyCenter says your 33 week fetus is about the same size as a pineapple, which is just about the only thing that sounds like it’s more painful to give birth to than a human.)
Week 34: Quadrello di Bufala
<Insert joke about how a pregnant lady is like a water buffalo here.> <Eat lots of Quadrello di Bufala to quell the pain of getting decked by a 34-weeks-pregnant lady after comparing her to a large ruminant.>
Week 35: Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue
Vermonter blue cheese fetuses are outnumbered by cows, love all things maple, can tolerate several dozen feet of snow and subzero temperatures, and are really good at forestry. Also, not unlike Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue, they pair well with dark chocolate or roasted fennel.
Week 36: Chiriboga Blue
With its dense fudgy texture and mild savory flavor, Chiriboga Blue seems like the result of some sort of alchemic fusion of a whole cheesecake, many sticks of butter, and a smattering of blue cheese. Which, hey, you’re nine months pregnant, you can probably just go ahead and indulge in those things, too.
Week 37: Manchego
Nutty (like a new parent with sleep deprivation), gamey (like the pajamas you will wear for a week straight during said sleep deprivation), and utterly delicious (like that sweet sweet new baby smell), Manchego– like puppies, kittens, and wrinkly little babes– is a crowd-pleaser for a reason. Pair with a handful of Marcona almonds for the fat, protein, and minerals a growing baby needs, and with fruity membrillo for the sweet kick mom most certainly deserves.
Week 38: Salva Cremasco
A curdy center paste that smacks of buttermilk, a dank, mushroomy creamline, and the gnarliest rind of them all– a few wedges of this passed round to the L&D staff is bound to get you the primo IV placement.
Week 39: Gorgonzola Cremificato
Oh, sweet decadence: mild Gorgonzola Dolce taken up a notch with the addition of heavy cream. Pretty fluffy and delicately cheesy, just like a newborn!
Week 40: Beenleigh Blue
Ever-elusive: Beenleigh Blue and babies born on their due date. Oh sure, I’ve heard about them, I’ve met them. I’ve tasted and sold Beenleigh Blue before, too, and I think I’ve seen it since then. I can just barely conjure up its fudgy texture, seaside bouquet, tempered sweetness. But they mostly exist in whispers and message boards and Google searches and the experiences of others.
Week 41: Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Considering that I had Winnie at 41 weeks, Georgie two days shy of 41 weeks, and they’rewas pretty much perfect, I think this pairing of Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin–all fruity brightness, toasted pecans, and fresh hay– with 41 weeks of gestation sounds just right. I’m kicking myself for not packing a hunk of this and a bottle of vin jaune in my hospital bag.
Week 42: The World’s Largest Cheese!
Get it? Because jokes about how huge your baby is when you’re postdate are hilarious, right?
Hey, that’s it. All the weeks! Now I just need to have another baby so I can pose with each of these wheels under my shirt week by week. That won’t be weird at all!