One aspect of Hong Kong life newcomers immediately remark upon is the inflated price of certain perishable foods, even taking into account the sometimes vast distances between the point of production and local retailers. Cheese is one commodity that is needlessly expensive in our supermarkets, even though prices elsewhere have fallen dramatically in recent years. From Hong Kong’s earliest urban beginnings, local milk production was limited, as the population who consumed it – mostly Europeans, Indians and local Portuguese – was relatively small. Most Chinese wouldn’t touch the stuff. The thought of drinking the milk of any animal filled them with revulsion, while fermented milk products, such as yogurt and cheese, were regarded with nauseated disgust. Among older, less Westernised generations, this aversion to dairy products remains strong, in particular for strong-smelling cheeses. Consumption of dairy products was regarded by many as the primary cause for why, in their view, Europeans and Indians stank. Some maintain – and articulate – these racist opinions today. As ever, overseas travel and higher education opportunities helped broaden some people’s horizons. Those who studied abroad often developed a taste for foods they enjoyed during their student years, encouraging a local market for certain items, including cheese. For decades, processed cheese was the main variety available . Like tinned butter and evaporated, condensed or powdered milk, processed cheese – whether tinned or foil-wrapped – could be stored almost indefinitely at room temperature, a key consideration in hot climates. Dairy cattle were imported from Australia from the 1880s, as modern dairy facilities were built in Hong Kong and sanitary conditions steadily improved. Milk was a prime vector for tuberculosis, then a major killer: until the 1930s, most “cream” on the top of locally produced milk was actually pasteurised pus. No cheese was produced locally, owing to the low volume of milk obtainable and the expense involved in its production. Commercial emphasis was on regular supplies of hygienically produced fresh milk, as well as some cream. Veal is a by-product of dairy farming and it featured heavily on the menus of early Western restaurants in Hong Kong. Dairy cattle require a pregnancy to ovulate, which creates a baby bovine that must either drink its mother’s milk, or be slaughtered for meat – the fate of most bull calves. (This point is neatly ignored by many well-intentioned vegetarians, who consume dairy products yet manage to square their own convoluted ethical circles by not eating meat.) By the 1920s, improved cold storage and better long-distance refrigerated transport saw greater availability of cheese, but it remained a highly priced luxury. In the interwar years, the most popular locally available cheeses were Australian or New Zealand cheddars. Dutch cheese was also widely available, produced by the large expatriate population in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). It was exported to Southeast Asia and sometimes to the China coast ports, including Hong Kong, on Dutch shipping lines, especially in the lead-up to Christmas. Dutch cheeses were mostly waxed – Edam, Gouda or Leyden – which could endure several months of refrigerated transport with no ill effects. Well-stocked cheese plates were considered the height of luxury at Hong Kong dinner parties into the 1960s. As air transport links steadily improved, perishable European cheeses became more widely available. Luxury hotels with service contracts for European airlines negotiated preferential deals for such perishables, allowing their restaurant menus to offer otherwise unobtainable luxuries.