An Entertaining Explanation of How Certain Cheeses Got Their Names

In “24 Origins of Cheese Names” by Mental Floss, host John Green amusingly explains the provenance of a number of cheeses and how they came to be named. While most of the enumerated cheeses were named after a town or city, there were a few exceptions.

“Provolone is an Italian cheese meaning “large provola.” And Provola is a DIFFERENT Italian cheese. It’s believed that it was named after a tradition where religious leaders visiting the convent of San Lorenzo in Capua would be offered a mozze o provatura…means like a sample of the main cheese. And if the word mozze sounds familiar, it should. Because it would spin off into mozzarella. The Italian word mozzare means “to cut off.” And the cheese is made by cutting curds and making them into balls.”

Green also provides the sordid history of “American cheese”.

“Finally, I return to my salon to tell you that American cheese got its name in the late 18th century because colonists in the Americas started exporting cheddar cheese back to Britain. So, it was the English who dubbed it “American cheese.” For a while, it was known here as yellow or store cheese, then about a century later it got nicknameslike “factory cheese,” “rattrap cheese,” or “rat cheese.” But you know, there’s something about the name “American cheese” that’s just a little more appetizing.”

True that.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.