When it comes to cheeses, there is much debate. To capitalize or not to capitalize? And is it bleu cheese or blue cheese? Like wearing white after Labor Day, it’s a style thing.
The best advice is to pick a style and stick to it. Pick Chicago Style. Pick AP style. Pick the dictionary. Just have something to CYA when the client asked why you didn’t capitalize the “Swiss” in “swiss cheese” (my usual answer is, when you wrote down your order for your co-worker who’s picking up lunch, did you capitalize the “french” in “french fries”?) If pressed, the formal answer is that you only cap a proper noun when it is being used as the literal proper noun.
You will occasionally notice on menus that there is a trend toward capitalizing cheese names. I don’t generally do this unless it is the client’s style. It looks pretentious, much like “bleu cheese,” and that’s just silly when you’re proofing a menu where everything’s under $10. But it IS of course important to spell cheese names correctly. Here are 10 popular cheeses with their proper spelling:
- cheddar (yes, we pronounce it “chedder.” But in fact, there is only one E in “cheddar.” In your head say “ched-DAR”)
- blue cheese (occasionally it may be client style to spell it “bleu cheese, and that’s okay)
- brie (we pronounce it like it rhymes with FREE, but it is spelled with an “ie”).
- mozzarella (two z’s, two l’s)
- parmesan (yes, we pronounce it “parmezhan.” In your head say “parMESan”)
- american (ooh, it’s gonna be hard not to cap that! I leave it to your discretion)
- provolone (three o’s!!)
- ricotta (one c, two t’s)
- feta (yes, Virginia, there is a t – even if we say “feda,” like a guy from Jersey Shore talking about those things you find on birds)