Now that I've eaten cheese curds, I understand why the spider frightened Little Miss Muffet away. He wanted her curds.

Cheese curds are little nuggets of dairy deliciousness. The popularity of this "squeaky cheese" has swept the country, but until recently cheese curds were only a Midwest thing, particularly in Wisconsin. The state's milk marketing board runs the Eat Curds website, which explains where cheese curds come from. During the process of cheesemaking, the milk liquids (the whey) are separated from the milk solids; curds are formed from the solids.

Cheese starts out as curds, and the cheese curds so popular today are the starting point for the full cheesemaking process. But instead, the salty curds are left as-is. They have a rubbery texture to them, and they squeak when you bite down on them.

They're best when super fresh. They will keep in the refrigerator for several days, but they may lose their squeakiness. They can be eaten just as they are or fried.

Here in the Philadelphia region, we have a food truck dedicated to cheese curds. Anywhere The Cow and the Curd truck is, you'll find long, long lines. It's not uncommon to hear someone say to a friend, "I'll pay for our cheese curds if you go stand in the line and get them." The fresh, battered, fried curds are hot, salty and gooey inside with an incredible savory flavor. They are definitely in the running for best comfort food ever. And you can learn more about the origins of this tasty treat in the video below.

Wisconsin and Philly aren't the only place to find cheese curds, fried or not. They're sold all over the country now. You can even buy them packaged in grocery stores, although the packaged ones won't be as fresh as the best curds.

In addition to being eaten fresh or fried, cheese curds show up on poutine — the French fry, gravy and cheese curd dish that originated in Quebec. They can be used in grilled cheese sandwiches, on top of pizza, tossed on salads, and used as a substitute for mozzarella in Caprese. Let your imagine go wild. Anywhere you might use cheddar or mozzarella, try substituting cheese curds instead.

Have you had the chance to try them? If you have, did you pop your cheese curds in your mouth fresh or have them prepared some other way?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.