Where did cheesecake come from?
A Little Cheesecake History
Little did anybody know at the time but on January 29th, 1842 in Orange County, New York, a baby was born who was destined to change the world. His name was William A. Lawrence and he grew up to be an inventor, a politician, a well-known businessman and the founder of W.A. Lawrence & Sons. What in the heck kind of company was that you might be asking yourself? Well, it was a cheese manufacturing company based in Chester, New York, of course and they were around in the days before pasteurization had been discovered. Milk was basically a local commodity back then, you either knew someone with a cow or you didn’t drink milk. The only way to ship dairy products any distance was to make butter or cheese. Well, William Lawrence liked to make cheese and he made a lot of it! His specialty was a cheese called Neufchatel, which is a French soft cheese that was slightly crumbled and mould-ripened. He also made several other fancy kinds of cheese and he shipped them all over the world. Yes, I guess he was that good.
Well, in 1880 a fellow named C.D. Reynolds thought rather highly of William and he liked an unusual kind of cheese that he produced, which was a variation of the Neufchatel cheese. So, Mr. Reynolds contracted with W.A. Lawrence & Sons to produce this cheese for him, which he marketed under the name of Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. In 1903 the Phoenix Cheese Company of New York bought the Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese trademark name and then later sold it to the Kraft company in 1928. The Kraft Company was started by this guy named James L. Kraft, who by the way, invented pasteurized cheese in 1912.
So, now you are wondering how William A. Lawrence changed the world? Let me ask you a question? What is one of the richest, tastiest, absolutely yummiest cake around? One that is so good it comes in thinly sliced wedges of heaven on a plate? I’ll give you a hint…..it made The Cheesecake Factory restaurant famous! Yep!…..without William and his cream cheese, the cheesecake you know and love today would not exist in it’s current form.
Just to give cheesecake it's fair due... history shows it was actually a popular dish in ancient Greece, go figure. The Greek physician Aegimus wrote a book called the art of making cheesecakes, way back in the day. In Europe, the earliest recipe for making cheesecake was in a book called Forme of Cury, dated 1390 and the authors were master cooks for King Richard the 2nd. Whom, by the way, was the man behind the great rebuilding of Westminster Hall, which was one of his grandest architectural achievements... just in case you are playing trivia one night and come across this obscure fact.
But the man of modern day cheesecake was William Lawrence. Let’s all give a moment of silence for this wonderful man and his beautiful re-discovery of an ancient wonder.
© 2010 Jamie Page