As someone who does not eat seafood, I never thought much about seafood recipes. I've read in several places that you shouldn't combine cheese with seafood. Okay, but why? I assumed it was some ancient prohibition against combining a food that spoils easily (seafood) with a food that uses things like bacteria or fungus to exist at all (cheese). Dan Nosowitz did some research on the "rule," and found that it is far from universal.
The prohibition on combining seafood and cheese is ancient and strong, but localized. The Top Chef judges state this prohibition as if it is a universal rule, but of course there are dozens of centuries-old dishes combining seafood and cheese that are beloved outside the United States—in Greece, Mexico, France, and even in specific pockets of the U.S. itself. To assume that the combination of seafood and cheese is inherently wrong is bizarre, and yet common. So where did it come from?
“It definitely originated in Italy, there’s no doubt about that,” says Julia della Croce, a cookbook author, teacher, writer, and one of America’s foremost experts on Italian cuisine. “Italians are very religious about mixing cheese and fish or seafood, it just isn’t done.” I spoke with several food historians and nobody seems to disagree on this point: The prohibition, and its aggressiveness, come from Italy.
The next question is why. While there is no consensus on the reason, there are quite a few possibilities, which you can read about at Gastro Obscura.
(Image credit: Aïda Amer)