It’s not every day that you might expect to see 30 to 50 undergraduates sitting around tables, tasting the likes of Dubliner, Drunken goat, Manchego and Fromager D'Affinois, discussing their merits and then ranking them on scoresheets. But every Friday afternoon, this is the scene in Stewart lobby, where Biola’s most popular student club — The Honorable Biola Cheese Society — meets to appreciate the nuances of dairy delicacies.
“Our goal is to provide Biola students an opportunity to expand their palette,” said the club’s president, Brett Kobold, who also goes by Munster Master, Gorgonzola General, Cheddar Champion and Duke of Dubliner (among other titles). Kobold — a sophomore psychology major — often begins each meeting with a cheese-related poem or reading, and then walks the club through the eight to 12 cheeses on the menu for the day: their aging process, origin, flavor notes.
Bethany Linnenkohl, the club’s vice president, is in charge of pairings — hand picking fruits, breads, juices and small dishes to accompany the flavors of the cheeses. She loves that the Cheese Society forces students to get out of their culinary comfort zones (“McDonald’s”) by experiencing cheeses from the likes of Spain and Germany.
“People don’t know the richness of food, of how much is out there,” said Linnenkohl, who plans to start her own cheese club after she graduates from Biola. “‘You mean there’s more cheese out there than American and pepper jack?’ When students try the cheese we present to them they are completely blown away. This is cheese? They can’t even put their finger on it because they’ve never tasted anything like it. That’s the joy of food right there.”
The club was started in 2005 by Ben Chernikoff (’09) and has since become one of Biola’s most unusual and cherished student organizations. It has a mailing list of more than 300 and on any given day at Biola you’re likely to spot a student wearing a Cheese Society T-shirt.
The club’s popularity reflects the way that food is so often the centerpiece of community and the facilitator of fellowship.
“The club provides an environment after a long week that lets people just relax and be around people who want to eat cheese,” said Kobold, who also noted that the club sometimes draws intellectuals and spawns “pleasant debate” around the tables following meetings.
“God gave us food to enjoy,” said Kobold, “so let’s enjoy it together.”