I felt kind of bad that Corey and I opted to visit Heini’s Cheese Chalet over our dad’s suggestion of Walnut Creek Cheese. He’s a self-professed expert on Ohio Amish Country, so I don’t doubt that Walnut Creek Cheese is a wonderful establishment. However, when I did my own research last week and stumbled upon Heini’s Cheese Chalet, I was like, “Holy fuck, this is the one.” Because:
- it’s a cheese CHALET
- it’s called HEINI’S
- it offers cheese factory tours!!
I texted Corey and he was like FUCK YES HEINI’S.
I noted that some of the Yelp reviews mentioned it was imperative to get there before 11:30, because that’s when it gets really crowded. We made it to Millersburg around 10:45, after squealing and pointing at all of the Amish buggies we passed along the way because we are Those People Who Remind the Amish Why They Chose That Path.
…because they don’t want to be American assholes like us.
We pulled into the parking lot of Heini’s at the same time as a large tour bus, and I was like “WHAT IF THE CHEESE TOUR FILLS UP?!” so we ran toward the entrance at the same time as four older woman, who laughed at us because they too were trying to beat the bus. THEY EVEN HELD THE DOOR OPEN FOR US. Corey and I thanked them sweetly and then exchanged excited LOOK AT US, MAKING FRIENDS! looks. If those old ladies really knew!
I went straight to the restroom, knowing that an empty bladder was imperative considering how quick I am to laugh to the point of pee-drops. When I came out, I found Corey standing near an information kiosk with a comically-old man who said he was willing to give us a tour anytime we’d like.
Which obviously was RIGHTNOW. This was around the time that I realized literally no one, not one single fanny-packed Midwesterner, was trying to get a spot on this critically-acclaimed tour. It was just me and Corey with some old guy in a Cosby sweater who was extremely stoked to tell us the story of how cheese is born. We got started at the beginning of a hallway, where we could peek through windows into a large factory-room with industrial-sized bins where milk apparently does things. There was no cheese being made at the time, so our guide kept expecting us to “imagine” the process, but you guys. I have to admit, it was pretty boring. Curds and whey and blah blah blah. Corey looked extremely bored. He spent most of the time looking away, and all I could think was, “Oh no. Corey’s not having fun! I built this cheese tour up too much!” But then I quickly realized that he was trying not to make eye contact with me because he knew, and I knew, that we would both start laughing.
While fidgeting to get my phone to start recording, I tried to occasionally nod my head and say things like, “Wow” and “Whoa.” I mean, this guy was so into it, almost treating it like it was the greatest bedtime story ever told, and I waited for him to invite Corey and me to sit on his knees so he could be better inspired to tell us wayback stories about how he used to walk 40 miles in cardboard-soled shoes in the winter to fetch Heini cheese for his mother while Father was in town watching nudies at the theater.
“And this is the man who invented yogurt cheese right here at Heini’s!” Father Cheese proudly exclaimed, and then stepped back to watch Corey and I gape at the portrait. I was surprised that the yogurt cheese man wasn’t a Heini! Man, he must be heralded by all those lactose intolerants.
We moved at a snail’s pace down that hallway, pausing to peer through new windows that offered the same views of large, steel vat-things, and I became acutely aware of the fact that the cheese shop had become twice as crowded since we started our tour. People were shoving cheese samples into their gluttonous maws mere feet from where we stood, listening to Father Cheese talk about the aging process for sharp varieties, like your CHEDDARS AND SUCH.
I could feel the giddiness begin to churn deep inside my gut, just like all that HOT MILK THAT MAKES THE CHEESE. I just kept chewing on the inside of my cheek, digging my fingernails into my palms, and repeating “Don’t make eye contact with Corey” over and over. I was thinking that maybe I was going to make it through without making a complete asshole of myself!
I found out later that Corey too was employing the physical pain infliction method of curbing the giggles, along with the classic “thinking about depressing things” tactic.
“What kinds of things do you like in your cheese?” he interrupted his curd-y fact-sharing to ask us.
Corey just stared back blankly, so I quickly blurted, “You know, I like FRUIT in my cheese.” WHICH IS A LIE! WHY DID I SAY THAT?! I mean, I’ve had cheese with dried cranberries in it that was pretty tasty, but fruity fromage is not something that I would consider a staple on my cheese board. I wanted to take it back and tell him that I meant dill or fennel, horseradish even! But he had already plunged head-first into a passage of fruit-infused cream cheese spreads.
By this point, he had backed us into a dead end while explaining to us how the cheese got its shape or something, I can’t remember. Full disclosure, I retained absolutely nothing from this walk down Learning Lane except that the men working in the factory were wearing BEARD NETS. While I was gawking at two of them pushing a cart of cheese up a ramp, Father Cheese made some comment about how heavy such large quantities of cheese is.
“Look at them, pushing that booger up there,” he said adoringly, and in my head, I was like HAHAHAH HE SAID BOOGER, DON’T LAUGH DON’T LAUGH.
But then bits of pieces of the last 15 minutes came flying back into my face: the fact that Father Cheese’s wife made him a breakfast shake out of WHEY that morning, the picture of the man who invited YOGURT CHEESE, the tour bus full of people HUNGRY FOR CHEESE, the bonnet-wearing cashiers who I’m not sure were actually Amish, Father Cheese’s sweater, us racing the passengers of the tour bus because we thought they were going to fill up the cheese tour….
THE IDEA OF PASTEURIZATION ALONE WAS INJECTING ME WITH GIGGLES, RIGHT IN THE FACE! LIKE THE GIDDIEST ROUND OF BOTOX OF ALL TIME.
And then I accidentally made eye contact with Corey right as Father Cheese was ticking off the BIG CITIES where one could find Heini’s cheese (Pittsburgh is one!). Corey made some kind of painful squeak from trying to contain the giggles, and that was all it took. Flood gates opened. We laughed so hard that it actually, physically hurt and even though I had purposely peed before the tour started, I felt a drop threaten to fall.
It was hilarious and horrifying all at once because I have never actually been busted laughing in someone’s face like that before. I mean, at the Bayernhof, there were people (and music boxes) to hide behind. But here, it was just the three of us, and I was backed into a corner. Literally.
This used to happen to me a lot when I was a kid. In church. Sitting on a pew among hundreds of silent parishioners, and there I go. Snorting and wheezing and my whole body shaking because YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO LAUGH IN CHURCH WHILE THE PRIEST IS TALKING ABOUT A MAN WHO WAS CRUCIFIED.
But it was never this bad.
Father Cheese stopped talking and slowly looked from Corey to me. He was confused, yet trying to keep a smile on his face. He knew that nothing he was saying was funny, but Corey and I were fucking scream-laughing at this point. I was slightly squatting to stop myself from peeing and Corey’s face was bright red from the exertion of hilarity.
You need to know about Corey and me that we are basically human hyenas. We will laugh at nothing and everything and then proceed to feed off of each other’s hyper-inappropriateness and it’s just a hot, douchey mess.
So, that’s all it took: one quick contact with the eyeballs and there went our sanity, slipping off our faces like rotted banana peels. I thought about how disappointed our dad would have been right then, at his kids making a mockery of Amish Country; and how disappointed Henry would have been, at the mother of his child setting more examples of assholery. And how disappointed Father Cheese certainly was, at these two spoiled brats who were laughing all over his very livelihood. We might as well have been squirting Easy Cheese into mouths right in front of him, that’s how badly our laughter was desecrating the entire Amish cheese process, right down to the Amish milk shooting out from Amish teats.
What probably only lasted for 30 seconds felt like watching a wheel of cheddar being aged. It was so uncomfortable, awkward, mortifying, embarrassing—-but SO FUCKING FUNNY.
Poor Father Cheese though, he was so confused. Finally, I was able to psychically bitch slap myself hard enough to stop laughing long enough to explain that we had been in the car all day and were extremely slap happy.
Father Cheese smiled and placed a hand on my arm.
“I understand. Why don’t we just end it here,” he said in grandfatherly tones lightly seasoned with exhaustion and a desire to suckle butterscotch; he handed me a sheet of paper with additional information, including great advice such as:
Do not put cheese in your car trunk [on hot summer days]. This would be the hottest place.
Corey and I had to walk back down the hall with him after that and it was excruciating. We purposely fell behind and then pretended to be SUPER INTERESTED in a bulletin board full of children’s cheese drawings until we were certain that Father Cheese was far enough away for us to safely proceed.
This was the first time in my life that I ever had to flat out confront my immature and out-of-place bray and it was A REAL EYE OPENER. Not enough to suddenly put us in check though. We were practically hiccuping at this point from all of the fermented laughter.
I texted Henry:
Me: Well, I peed my pants from laughing so hard at our first stop.
Henry: I’m glad it’s just the two of you.
Me, Oh, you would be so pissed!
Henry: I’m sure of that.
And then we proceeded to get in a line that would eventually herd us like cattle past veritable troughs of cheese samples.
TO BE CONTINUED, OMG.