Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Of Traveling and Cheese

Apologies to all five of N&C's fans for the long silence. The closest thing I have to an excuse is a fair amount of traveling, so the TSA has been on my mind even more than usual. When I'm planning a trip (as opposed to actually traveling) it's easy to forget what a nuisance post 9-11 flying can be. For example, I'm often late to the game on finding out what items are verboten. Last weekend I visited friends in Florida. A few days before I was shopping for a host & hostess gift and foolishly bought some Stilton. It was only after I got home that it occurred to me to check the TSA website: that's right--you can only take cheese on board if it's 3 ounces or less and in a pressurized container.

I'm not sure what the TSA thinks I could possibly do with a wedge of Stilton, although Dairy Management, Inc.'s "Behold the Power of Cheese" campaign did suggest that disastrous things can happen in connection with dairy products.

And I must admit the notion of cheese being much more than just a foodstuff has precedents. Charles de Gaulle blamed cheese for French political fractiousness (Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?). The formidable Queen Maeve of the Táin Bó Cúailnge was killed with a piece of cheese (it's a long Wikipedia entry--scroll down, you'll find it).* And events within the past month testify to the continuing destructive power of cheese.

Briefly as I child I believed that cheese had some connection with the divine (because of a hymn that began "Who is this that cometh from Edom?")** I was clueless about spelling--I was four, after all. (A pity I was too young for Monty Python--"blessed are the cheesemakers" would have packed much more of a punch in that context).

But even taking all this history into account, banning all cheese in quantities of over 3 ounces is overkill. It's Stilton for God's sake. The worst it could do is stink up my luggage. Sure, it's a little on the smelly side if you've got a cheddar-conditioned palate, but there are much more serious cheeses out there. A few years ago Cranfield University in the UK conducted a study to to determine the world's skankiest cheeses--Stilton didn't even crack the top ten.

The world's premier cheese-eating nation (yes, the one with 246 kinds) bans only one cheese from any kind of transportation: Epoisses de Bourgogne.

I suppose Francophobes would consider this just one more example of how the French aren't doing their part in the War on Terror (now you may mentally insert any riff on the "cheese-eating -surrender-monkeys" theme).

*And yes, I have read the Táin. It really is in there. And yes, the death-by-cheese is the best part.

In spite of the opaque lyrics (Alpha and Omega, the Great I Am...), I knew the guy from Edom/Edam had to be Jesus. It was church. Everything was about Jesus. It was like an obsession with those people.


Simon said...

I have often thought that it's mere microbiological luck that Saccharomyces sp. got the gig as transubstantiantal bug of choice. The christians who fetishise the production of ethanol and carbon dioxide (understandable in context of the two substances that would have made prehistoric life both possible and bearable) into a deity clearly made the choice of yeast over the various lactobacteria for cultural reasons. Maybe monotheism is no more than a reification of this single genus, Saccharomyces rather than the pantheon of genera involved in curdling and maturation of cheese. A pox on monoculturism!

Kevin said...

LOL! I see a new discipline emerging: theological gastronomy.

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