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11th March 2020

What comes first – the beans or the cheese?

Ellie Martin delves into the politics of whether the cheese or the beans comes first on a baked potato – spoiler, its beans
What comes first – the beans or the cheese?
Photo : Ellie Martin

The humble baked potato. A staple at home and on campus for the typical UoM student. It’s one of the cheapest lunches on campus, with a cheese and beans jacket costing just £1.25 at Bikos if you can hold off until after 3 pm on a Friday. 

But, this seemingly innocent meal is wreaking havoc amongst jacket enthusiasts. What may seem like simple, uncomplicated scran is provoking confusion and debate in food stalls across campus. Don’t let it’s humble appearances fool you, the beans and cheese potato is as divisive as a jam and cream scone. 

Here’s the question: What should come first on a baked potato, the beans or the cheese?

This is the debate that has been tearing The Mancunion office apart for weeks. Friendships have been destroyed, colleagues have fallen out, housemates have stormed out of kitchens in protest. 

There is only one right answer to this question and anyone who says otherwise is an anarchist. However, for the sake of argument, I lay the reasons before you. 

There are two main schools of thought. The first, more traditionalist (and correct) method is to smother the potato in beans and then top with a healthy handful of grated cheese. This looks better in photos, for sure. You can dip your fork in and get that satisfying “cheese pull” moment that makes everything look so good in pizza adverts. This way also gives you more control over the rate at which the cheese melts. 

This order also makes sense in terms of food density. You start with the heaviest ingredient, then the next, and finally top it with delicious flakes of grated cheese – mozzarella or cheddar, dealer’s choice. It’s called a topping for a reason. 

The main argument for the other side is that when the cheese goes in first, it melts under the weight and heat of the beans for a more enjoyable cheese melting experience. A source from Biko’s Cafe in the SU says that staff are actually trained to assemble the potatoes like this so that they “don’t have to reheat the potato to melt the cheese before they hand it over.”

I would argue, however, that a fully melted layer of cheese under the beans isn’t as enjoyable as a squishy if slightly alternate topping of cheese over the beans. I would add that layering the cheese under the beans means you lose the flavour and texture of the cheese, which gets lost under the overpowering presence of the beans. 

It’s the equivalent of putting cheese under the tomato sauce on a pizza. It’s just wrong. 

If you frequent multiple food establishments on campus you will have noticed a massive inconsistency in the order staff arrange the beans and cheese on a potato. The uncertainty is distressing, every lunchtime being unsure of what could be handed to you under that compostable lid. 

An even more abhorrent method suggested was grating the cheese into the beans as you heat them. I don’t feel that this should even be granted a response other than I hope you never make a baked potato for anyone but yourself, you detty pig. 

Now that we’ve sorted this, we can get back to the real issues. If only settling other British debates was as simple. 

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