Just as Baked Alaska brought to mind blinged-out buffets, cheese balls immediately send my mind spiraling to a time of leg warmers, side ponies, and totally awesome mixed tapes.

The cheese ball used to be huge, both literally and figuratively. I never remember attending parties with brie and cocktail wafers. Instead, I remember cheese balls--chilled cheeses processed into a round shape and rolled into some form of topping, like crushed nuts, coconut, or whatever might be lingering on your counter.

At some point (we'll call that period The Great Awakening), cocktail parties moved to crudites, fresh veggies, and one-bite noshes, pleasing everyone, even if the oh-so cute cheese ball was left out in the cold. Then, Pinterest happened.

One day, you and I will tell our children of a time before Pinterest. Of a time when one simply enjoyed one's food and didn't bother trying to make it into something else. Like an apple.


Or a present:


Or a pinecone:


Oh no. Back in my day (as I'll tell my daughter), food looked like food. And presents looked like presents. There was no confusion, no mommy-warring over who could disguise what as what, and certainly no one broken hearted after trying to untie a red pepper bow.

Even the people who stick with the basic shape of the cheese ball can't resist a little holiday play:


I'm not saying you can't have fun with your food, or that you shouldn't entertain to the best of your abilities, but I am saying you should make sure it looks edible (not just pretty) and that people like me won't wonder how many times you've touched what I'm about to eat before it goes in my mouth. On a scale of 2 (chopped celery) to approximately 47 (cake ball), 4 is about my upper limit, and I'm thinking shaping cheese that's warm enough to be malleable into a round, or square, shape sits at about 15, on a good day.

So while your cheese ball may be pretty, Pinnable, and oh-so temping (have you seen those cookie dough cheese balls?), I'll stick with my wedge of brie, thanks.

What recipes do you want to learn about? Come back each Thursday as we revisit the classics in our recipe collection!

By Ashley Kappel and Ashley Kappel