There’s a hungry group of students who refuse to let the pandemic shut down their dining experiences. These food lovers are bringing a unique restaurant experience into the comfort of their homes.
Welcome to the wonderful world of gourmet grazing boards and aesthetic appetizers filling your social media feed with inferiority-inducing images and diet-sinking snaps.
Charcuterie (“shar-koo-tuh-REE”) boards are the latest COVID-19 culinary craze to sweep college campuses. This trendy Generation Z food fascination is a carefully curated array of cheeses, meats, breads, fruits and crackers artistically arranged atop a serving board. Typical charcuterie boards feature a variety of cheeses and meats of different flavors, textures and geographical origins.
Charcuteries started in France in the 15th century as a manner to elegantly plate cooked pork and became a foundation of French cuisine. Over time, these meat plates evolved to include the cheeses, fruits, crackers, nuts and olives commonly found on charcuterie boards today.
“Charcuterie” has its etymological origins from the French “chair” and “cuit,” meaning “flesh” and “cooked.” The word was originally used to describe the stores that specialized in pork sales.Today, even vegans enjoy their own version of charcuterie, sans animal-derived ingredients.
McKenna Urbanski, a 2020 UNC graduate who majored in contemporary European studies, said that she had wanted to make charcuterie boards for a while and finally got the chance to fulfill her foodie dream because of excess free time created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When COVID-19 took off, I had a lot more free time on my hands and a lot fewer opportunities to eat out,” Urbanski said. “I started cooking more and really wanted to try to make a charcuterie board.
“I decided making a board was a good way to kick off the beginning of the semester with my roommates. It was a nice way to welcome everyone back and see everyone again, but still be respectful of everyone's health and safety. So instead of going out, we had a cheese and wine night.”
Inspiration from Instagram
“I discovered on @thatcheeseplate the ‘Cheese by Numbers’ method, which is six different steps to creating the perfect cheese plate,” Santhuff said. “You start with cheese, step two is meat, three is produce, four is crunch, five is dip and the final step, six, is garnishing.”
Santhuff said she creates both sweet and savory cheese boards, using inexpensive ingredients from local grocers to create a powerful punch at a good price.
“Trader Joe's has a fig and olive cracker as well as a rosemary and raisin cracker, which are super good,” Santhuff said. “I also like to include dark chocolate in my boards, which goes well with many foods.”
One of Santhuff’s specialty twists to her charcuterie creations is putting goat cheese on strawberries instead of using crackers.
Jodie Lee, a UNC senior majoring in exercise and sports science, said she starting making charcuterie boards to pair with wine.
“When I turned 21, I had friends who were 21, and they introduced me to the whole wine-and-cheese-for-charcuterie-boards kind of thing. So I started making them just for fun, like if we were watching 'The Bachelor' or something," Lee said.
Even though putting together a charcuterie board can be time consuming, people enjoy it as a form of art and subsisting during the pandemic, especially when they're with their friends.
"So, normally, (my charcuteries are) just for me and my friends, and my friends are funny because they'll say, 'Oh we're so lucky to have (you) in (our) quarantine bubble,'" Urbanski said. "Some of my other friends will say, 'I wish that I lived with you just so that I could eat the food that you make.'"
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