Cheese Culture: Facts and Figures

This page invites us to sample a varied selection of famous and infamous, palatable and not so palatable, quotes and facts, about cheese.

For your delectation we’ve sniffed out some facts and figures about who loves it, who hates it and what they have said about it. Records from the kitchen of Ingatestone Hall in Essex show that, in 1552, about 2664 pounds of cheese were consumed. There were also about 20,000 loaves of bread made!

From Daniel Defoe’s travel book, ‘Tour through the whole Island of Great Britain’ 1724-27, we learn that Chester was prosperous…”for this was the centre for Cheshire cheese which, made also in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Lancashire, was shipped by river all over the country in enormous quantities, 14,000 tons a year going to London alone.”

Political Portions

Sir Winston Churchill was a man who liked his stilton and official dinners held in his honour continue to celebrate that fact; with the inclusion of his favourite Stilton on the menu. (In the sixteenth century, strong Stilton was served with a spoon-for scooping up the maggots…) Charles de Gaulle was quoted as saying: “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” France produces over 500 cheeses, so how indeed? (Apparently his favourite nibble was Mimolette.) Napoleon Bonaparte enjoyed a little Epoisses cheese from Burgundy; presumably with his little cracker, Josephine.

Benjamin Franklin wrote ‘A Mitey Samson’

‘Jack, eating a rotten cheese, did say,
Like Samson I my thousands slay:
I vow, quoth Roger, so you do.
And with the self-same weapon, too!’

Comic Cuts

Ricky Gervais: “My physique is down to twenty years of eating cheese.”
From Lister in Red Dwarf: “If we get a room with a trouser press, we can make cheese toasties.”
Keith Waterhouse in ‘Mondays, Thursdays’ said: “Wensleydale has the colour and texture of a milkmaid’s shoulder and, when you bite into it, you have a sensation of being tickled at the back of the throat by buttercups.”
Helen Hayes: “Age is not important unless you’re a cheese.”
James Joyce spoke of “…the feety savour of green cheese.”
M. Taittinger: “You put your left index finger on your eye and your right index finger on the cheese. If they sort of feel the same, the cheese is ready.”
“Washington DC is to lying what Wisconsin is to cheese.” Dennis Miller.

Broadcaster Bites

“The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” Jeremy Paxman.
Bernard Levin was apparently passionate about cheese but “…didn’t like that mad Norwegian toffee-like confection, called Gjetost.” Cheese was “milk’s leap to immortality” according to Clifton Fadiman.
“Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures” said MFK Fisher.

Waxed (Lyrical) Quotes

“A poet’s hope: to be, like some valley cheese, local, but prized elsewhere.” W.H Auden
Shakespeare, King Henry IV:
“O! He’s as tedious
As a tired horse, a railing wife;
Worse than a smoky house. I had rather live
With cheese and garlic in a windmill, far,
Than feed on cates and have him talk to me
In any summer-house in Christendom.”
(Not keen on cheese or garlic, then?)

Cheese was less often eaten by the rich than the poor during this time. Agricultural labourers would share their ‘breduncheese’ in the fields. Soft or cream cheese was often used in cooking, but, poorer people ate hard cheese, made from skimmed milk – and green cheese, which was made from the curd and flavoured with herbs. Perhaps that’s where the expression ‘hard cheese’ comes from…

Eugene Field:
“But when I undress me
Each night, upon my knees,
Will ask the Lord to bless me,
With apple pie and cheese.”

Let’s finish this course with a Jamaican proverb: “When a dog has money, he buys cheese.”

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