The Long-Running 'Apple Pie With Cheese' Debate Rages On

Apple pie and cheese being "a thing" may surprise even those who've been eating for many decades. Apparently, it's not such a revelation if your roots dig deep into the American Midwest, New England, or the apple-growing state of Vermont. The debate over pairing apple pie with cheese may have been raging for centuries, but the practice has been clearly documented in print for at least 100 years. Coverage by the Los Angeles Times in 1998 notes the combination cropped up in 1950s cookbook recipes and nods to some semblance of apple pie and dairy pairings dating back to the 1600s and 1700s. Perhaps the dairy part morphed into cheese, but even food historian Charles Perry, who penned the Times article, failed to make an informed declaration on that.

Turning to poetry gives a greater return, as revealed by the Best Poems Encyclopedia posting of "Apple Pie and Cheese" by American poet Eugene Field, who lived in the mid to late 1800s. In bold, humorous declarations under the aptly-titled poem, he decries heretics coming to our land to corrupt our native taste, seeking to "dim the glory of apple pie and cheese." He concludes his long, expressive poem with a vow to end each day on his knees, beseeching the Lord to bless him with apple pie and cheese. So there you have it, the battle lines were drawn by at least the 19th century.

Here's a look at the curious culinary pairing and why it's so controversial.

Like a kiss without a squeeze

The apple pie and cheese combination bends to regional tastes and preconceptions. Some tout it as the perfect contrast between sweet, sharp, and salty, melding with taste buds in glorious perfection, explains Atlas Obscura. Standing firm on the other side, Southern Living magazine warns that Deep South palettes will never acquiesce, reacting instead with either confusion or a blatant request for ice cream.

Deeper schisms arise over the preparation method. Cheesy apple pie inclinations vary between baking cheddar cheese into the pie filling, rolling it into the crust, melting it over the top, or placing it on a plate beside the pie. The Vermont Country Store states that apple pie must be topped with warm, not melted, cheddar cheese and even cites a legal state statute requiring a "good faith effort" to always serve apple pie with either cold milk, ice cream, or cheddar cheese weighing at least ½ ounce. If you think that's a quirky old custom left lingering for decades on Vermont statutes, think again – the declaration was approved on May 10, 1999.

In the end, it all comes down to a friendly rivalry fueled by tradition, personal taste, and a tinge of fondness for stretching culinary boundaries. Apex Orchards notes a handed-down generational phrase that justifies at least giving it a try: "Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze."