Limburger is a cheese that originated during the 19th century in the historical Duchy of Limburg, which is now divided among modern-day Belgium, Germany, and Netherlands. The cheese is especially known for its pungent odor commonly compared to body odor.
In its first month, the cheese is firmer and more crumbly, similar to the texture of feta cheese. After about six weeks, the cheese becomes softer along the edges but is still firm on the inside and can be described as salty and chalky.
After two months of its life, it is mostly creamy and much smoother. Once it reaches three months, the cheese produces its notorious smell because of the bacterium used to ferment Limburger cheese and many other smear-ripened cheeses is Brevibacterium linens, the same one found on human skin that is partially responsible for body odor and particularly foot odor.
One of the most traditional forms of eating limburger is the limburger sandwich. After three months, when the cheese has ripened, it becomes spreadable. The cheese is often spread thick on firm-textured 100% rye bread, with a large, thick slice of onion, and is typically served with strong black coffee or lager beer.
Alternatively, for heartier eaters, chunks or slices of the cheese up to 1.5 cm thick can be cut off the block and placed in the sandwich. This sandwich still remains very popular among the descendants of German immigrants residing in the midwest part of America, such as in Cincinnati, or German Village in Columbus, Ohio. However, it is markedly less popular among the descendants born after ca. 1960, mainly because of the permeating smell, and the inconvenience of going to specialty cheese and sausage shops to obtain it. In Wisconsin, the Limburger sandwich can be found on menus at certain restaurants, accompanied with brown mustard.
Limburger and its characteristic odor are a frequent butt of jokes and gags. Reactions to, and misinterpretations of, the smell of limburger cheese were gags used in numerous Little Rascals and Three Stooges comedy shorts. In 2006, a study showing that the malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae) is attracted equally to the smell of Limburger and to the smell of human feet earned the Ig Nobel Prize in the area of biology. The results of the study were published in the medical journal "The Lancet" on 9 November 1996.
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