Daisy Bateman

Thurscheese: By The Book

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I got an iPad* for my birthday. (I did? Well, you might have forgotten.) And the first thing I did, after holding it up over my head and dancing around with it like Clara at the beginning of The Nutcracker, was to install the Books app and get to downloading.

Because I am cheap, one of the first things I did was to check out what was available for free, because who doesn’t like things that are free? And, along with some surprise bonus Agatha Christies and obvious essentials like Sherlock Holmes and Winnie the Pooh, I came across the book that may change my life forever.

By Robert Carlton Brown, The Complete Book of Cheese really is just that. Written in 1955, it covers every aspect of the world of cheeses, from culture** to history to tasting notes on the complete range of products, domestic and international, to recipes. For it to be any more complete, we’d have to invent new kinds of cheese.

Obviously, this is going to be a great reference for this blog, especially when my cheese-of-the-month-club shipments start arriving.*** And I will get to the meat of the book later, but as an introduction I would like to share a few highlights of cheese poetry, of which there seems to be a surprising amount.

From our neighbors to the north, a poem written in honor of a four-ton cheese presented at a fair in 1885. Clearly, they were proud:

We have thee, mammoth cheese,

Lying quietly at your ease;

Gently fanned by evening breeze,

Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you’ll go

To the greatest provincial show,

To be admired by many a beau

In the city of Toronto

Which is not to say that the good old US of A has not contributed to the grand tradition of cheese poetry.  Here, the “Epico-Lyrico Ballad” The Mammoth Cheese, written in honor of the “The Ultra-Democratic, Anti-Federalist Cheese of Cheshire,” presented to President Jefferson in 1801:

From meadows rich with clover red,

A thousand heifers come;

The tinkling bells the tidings spread,

The milkmaid muffles up her head,

And wakes the village hum.

In shining pans the snowy flood

Through whitened canvas pours;

The dying pots of otter good

And rennet tinged with madder blood

Are sought among their stores.

It goes on like that for about four pages, and at some point I think it even gets around to mentioning the cheese.

The Europeans have also taken to the field of cheese poetry, of course, and from them Brown offers this example, by Thomas Braun and translated by Jethro Bithell from some unspecified language:

God of the country, bless today
        Thy cheese,
For which we give Thee thanks on
        bended knees.
Let them be fat or light, with
        onions blent,
Shallots, brine, pepper, honey;
        whether scent
Of sheep or fields is in them, in
        the yard
Let them, good Lord, at dawn be beaten hard.

Conclusions: E-books are cool, Europeans are weird.

*Shopping post on iPad cases to follow shortly.
***Oh, yes.

2 thoughts on “Thurscheese: By The Book”

  1. When I am in California over Xmas, I will play you the pair of "Ranz des Vaches" I now have in iTunes. These are the traditional songs used to call the cows in from their alpen meadows in a couple of different Francophone cantons of Switzerland. Which is of course cheese-related. They're beautiful, actually.

    And I'm liking the cheese poems almost as much as I like SPAM haiku, which is quite a lot.

  2. Music of the Cheeses! The world is a wonderful place, isn't it?

    By the way, if you have iBooks on your phone, you really need to download this. It is free, and it is marvelous. I would have liked to put the poems here in their entirety, but they would have pushed this post into epic-length territory.


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