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One way of representing dairy products in a temporal framework is the use of literary elements. Explain what literary elements are and what cheese is used in this form of representation.
On the Eleventh of June 1687, the good people of Britain, rocked already by King James II’s Declaration of Indulgence, were woken up and nu-metalled to the foundations of their eating habits by the introduction of cheese as a comestible. Before this auspicious date, cheese (in its simplest form and usually derived from goats) was mainly used for veterinary medicinal purposes – as an unguent for bovine chlamydia and as a salve for the lacerations of self-harming krill.
It was Robinson Crusoe who elevated cheese to the dining table. Rescued from his island, now thought to be situated in the Juan Fernández Archipelago, Crusoe found himself aboard a ship with a scabbed and scared, scabied and scurvied crew. The rum and limes had run out and it was more than 40 days since their last daiquiri. They were close to mutiny. They were even closer to death. What to do? Well, Crusoe had harvested a substantial amount of what looked like, smelled like, and indeed tasted like, cheese between his hard and horny digits. The sailors were cock-a-hoop and, after feasting for days on the scrapings, rushed around decks with Crusoe aloft, jubilant at having been saved from hunger, disease, and death by the faux cheese garnered from Crusoe's toes.
Back in Blighty, the sailors spent their money on real cheese – goat cheese, sheep cheese, cow cheese – whatever they could get their hooked hands on, their walrus-ivory teeth in, and their unshaved and rope-burned chops around.
17th century England took cheese to its heart (well, its mouth). Instead of holy water, Alexander Pope’s parents used whey to christen him. Later in life, little Alex was known to hide a whole double gloucester under his tunic during his daily hobble around Twickenham. It is widely believed that John Dryden used long quills made from parmesan to compose his heroic tragedies.
In the 18th century, Samuel Johnson attempted to rename the now-popular dairy product “aaaaaaaacheese” in order for it to assume foremost position in his newfangled dictionary (it didn’t catch on – all editions with “aaaaaaaacheese” were collected from booksellers and burned during the 1766 bread riots). See also Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor,
Adieu. I love not the humour of bread and aaaaaaaacheese,
and there's the humour of it. Adieu.
Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he
transform me to a piece of aaaaaaaacheese!
The 19th century saw the introduction of cheese into Europe. Julian Barnes in a chapter of Flaubert’s Parrot, Emma Bovary’s Eyes, describes how, throughout Madame Bovary, Emma’s eyes change colour. The reason for this is that Flaubert’s hobby was cheese-rolling and he made Emma’s eyes from two perfectly round globes of sage derby – the rest of her body was carved from climate-controlled camembert – and the change in eye colour was due to oxidisation, protein transformation, and, not least, the dirt engrimed in Gustave’s grubby paws.
The year 1890 saw the staging of Ibsen’s Cheddar Gabler. Ibsen’s influence on James Joyce’s 20th century classic Ulycheese is undeniable and the narratology of Finnegan’s Wake has been likened to emmental. It has also been argued (Nature, issue 6918, January 2003, Volume 421) that Ludwig Flamm’s theory of wormholes is based on the structure of emmental, although Stephen Hawking argues that appenzell has a more viable geometry.
In 1927, The Hogarth Press rejected a manuscript believed to be called Canestrato: A Biography by Virginia Woolf because the writing was illegible; the blue ink having run across the paper, no doubt moistened by suicidal tears. Virginia, wild with fury, hatchet-faced with rage, pointed out to the sub-editor cowering beneath an oak desk that the manuscript was actually a slab of stilton she had sent her husband Leonard for lunch. The whereabouts and condition of the grapes and water biscuits went unrecorded.
The influence of cheese on contemporary literature is seen in the work of Mark Leyden, Brick Moody, Alain-Robbe Gruyere, and Steve Fynbo.
Cheese culture has also spread to the cinema. James Jones’s Fromage to Eternity, later made into a successful Hollywood film starring Burt Lancashire, Monterey Clift, and Deborah Curd, was the first of the cheese novel/movie crossovers that dominated the 1950s. The influence of cheese on cinema reached its zenith in the acting dynasty of Henry, Peter, and Jane Fondue, and in films such as Cheesy Rider, Visconti’s The Edamned, and Alain Tanner and John Berger’s film on cheese ageing – Jonah Who Will Brie 25 In The Year 2000.
Steve Finbow knows all about cheese as a representative subject.