Do They Put Cheese in Cheesecake?

Today, for dessert, our residents enjoyed cheesecake.  The question came up, though, why do they call it cheesecake; they don’t put cheese in it, do they?  We realize that there is not what we might call “normal cheese,” but there is cream cheese.  Actually, though, some parts of the world do include actual cheese in this tasty dessert.  Cream cheese, in fact, has a relatively short history, originating in 19th century America. 

Cheesecake, itself, however, goes back much further, even possibly as far back as about 2000 BC in the ancient Greek world, on the island of Samos, where excavations found cheese molds dating back to that time.  Nonetheless, the first surviving Greek recipe for cheese cake is not found until 230 AD.

Next came the Romans, who adapted the Greek delight to include eggs and crushed cheese.  Later, as the empire spread, this creamy treat made its way to England and other parts of Europe. It took centuries, though, for cheesecake to come to resemble more closely the dessert we enjoy today.  There are two main types of cheesecake, baked and the version made with uncooked cream cheese.

In the late 1800s, with the invention of cream cheese, the treat took a delightful turn.  Now, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and St. Louis have their own characteristic derivations.

Italians, however, have their own version of dessert which is rich in flavor as well as history.  They use ricotta cheese.  Elsewhere, Germans use cottage cheese, Greeks use feta, and Japanese use, of all things, egg whites and corn starch.  South Africa and India also put their own twists on it, as do some other parts of Europe.

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