Wednesday, November 12, 2014



Even the sound of the word excited him. Cheese. Cheeeeeese. Like the whirring of some marvellous contraption, a futuristic machine designed for pure human delight. He could see it in mind's eye: gears spinning, pistons pumping, steam bursting joyfully from the chimney atop the device, whistling to let all know that the cheese was ready; the Delight-O-Tron spitting forth divine hunks of yellow and white, and even blue and green, magical slabs of pungent paradise for all to consume and sate themselves with ecstasy.

This is what he saw. Reality was sadly different, and as the wrappers piled high in the corners of his flat, he knew he must be content with daydreams. In this harsh capitalistic world, nobody else saw cheese the way he did. The other invention he fantasised about was a new kind of nuclear-powered spectacles, attuned to a specific cheese-friendly frequency. When you put them on, your appreciation of cheese would intensify beyond belief. Looking at cheese with these glasses, one would experience such dizzy heights of joy...everyone would know what it was like for him. He had been born with Cheese Specs. He yearned to bring them to the world. Alas, he lacked the technology. The fact was that all the time he could have spent learning of physics and electronics and mechanical engineering had been entirely taken up with the consumption and appreciation of cheese. And so, his love of cheese had robbed him of the ability to fulfil it. This thought could at times reduce him to such despair that he would collapse in a puddle of paradox and lie weeping for hours, nibbling melancholically at a wedge of Jarlsberg.

He knew there must be, somewhere, the answer to that question that had burned inside him as long as he could remember, like a dairy-based blowtorch. It was hard to bear, and even harder to understand: cheese satisfied him, more than man has ever been satisfied by anything, at least as far as he knew. Casanova looking back on his legions of female conquests, Michaelangelo recalling his incomparable catalogue of artistic supernovas, Caesar himself surveying all the lands he had brought to heel before his standard, none could possibly have felt such surges of euphoric content, such electric bolts of all-consuming happiness, as were his at the end of a day getting to grips with a consignment of Gorgonzola. And yet... 

And yet it seemed that satisfaction, so far from being dissatisfaction's mortal foe, was in fact its meek and humble handmaiden. For no matter how satisfied he became, it was not satisfied enough. Always, the gnawing began again...

Cheese was his, and it was glorious. But the glory of his personal affair with the sublime curd was nothing, a speck of plankton in a wall of baleen, when compared to the glory he imagined, saw in the distance, felt tingling at his extremities, heard echoing within his skull, tasted, dancing, on the tip of his tongue...the glory of spreading cheese to all the world and bringing that indescribable joy to the masses, disseminating his love infinitely and watching the whole world rejoice in cheese's benevolent embrace. The glory imagined dwarfed the glory realised by so far that every day he woke up with a hollowness in the pit of his stomach, a metaphysical famine that a quickly scoffed Camembert wheel could dissipate only temporarily.

And so, finally, after years of enduring the burning ache, he made a decision. A decision that would change not only his own life, but the very world itself. A decision that in the pursuit of the ultimate goal, he would make the ultimate sacrifice.

He would give up cheese.

He could see, all too clearly, that cheese was standing in its own way. Eating cheese took up too much time; the buying, the unwrapping, the setting out, the savouring of aromas and tender prodding of textures. The long, lingered-over consumption, the reverent afterglow. The recording of details in his dark blue Cheese Log. The agonised composition of words to do justice to the delicacy, lest he someday forget a single bite. It devoured his time, and left not a second for planning and plotting, for devising of schemes to encircle the globe with cheese.

He must, therefore, set cheese aside, and bend every sinew towards his greater goal. Though it would be torture, his reunion with cheese at the completion of his task would be all the sweeter for the knowledge that it was earned.

Torture, in fact, was far too mild a word for what the coming weeks brought him. Every day, as he sketched blueprints, constructed scale models, sat in the library behind piles upon piles of weighty, sombre volumes, he felt the siren song of Lady Mold calling him. Every night, as he sat by the light of an inadequate lamp, scribbling madly in exercise book after exercise book, ruling lines, measuring angles, feverishly tearing pages out of phone books and pasting them in esoteric configurations on huge slabs of cardboard, he felt the knives of cheese-lust hacking away at his flesh.

Oh, he ate, but poor fare. Bread. Butter. Meat. Vegetables. He drank waters and juices, and even milk - O sweet tantalisation, so near yet so far - but cheese passed not his lips. Passed not even his doorway; he knew the limits of his willpower.

And so he worked. He became gaunt and ragged. His clothes grew filthy and began falling to pieces. His eyes assumed a staring, haunted look. His face was pale and pinched. The marks of obsession were stamped upon him like the imprint of Surchoix upon an Appenzeller. Soon, soon, he would waste away to nothing. Soon, the cheese would claim him, as it had his forebears.

Oh, nobody knew of them, of course. It was not widely reported when a lone lunatic fell victim to the ravages of cheese. Felled before their plans could reach fruition, they were anonymous, unloved and unmourned. But he, yes, he knew them. He had read, he had learnt, he had come to know just what a lethal endeavour he had embarked upon. The names floated like ghosts before his weary, bulging eyes. Lippinziger, Rothwell, Gerdell de la Bosconi. Noble men, men who had believed in cheese, who had looked cheese in the face and smiled as it took their lives.

He knew he was destined to join their ranks. Perhaps, then, he would know peace, he would know bliss. He would be transported to Cheese Heaven, where even Brocciu is endlessly available, and the only company would be those other brave men who understood his passion. But one way or another, he was heading down that road. The cheese was coming for him. Fate had drained the whey. The desire for just one wedge, just one slice, just one smear across a would overwhelm him. To go without cheese for a day was agony. This...this was the Inferno.

And that's when it happened.

This emaciated shell of a man, this ghoul, this half-crazed banshee, sitting one night, eight weeks past the start of his project, staring at his notes, his blueprints, his maps, his scrapbooks, his models, his painstaking graphs...found the answer.

And when it came it struck him with the force of an Emmental fired from a Howitzer. It had been there all along. He was a genius without knowing it. The Cheese Conundrum had been solved.

And suddenly, that cold night, flickering candle dimly lighting his laughing, dirty, whiskered, madman's face, he knew that the world was his for the taking.

The rest of the night, he sat happily in the doorway of the shop across the street, rocking, a contented smile upon his face, and when they opened, he bought every last scrap of Gruyere in the place, and ate it right there, grinning from ear to ear.

Not that it was that simple, of course. Yes, he had the answer, but the practical work had still to be done. Construction was undertaken. A score of strong men were hired and told of a hefty share of the profits if they bent their arms to the task with all possible vigour. Day and night they laboured in his new makeshift factory, hammering, riveting, bolting, welding, scraping and oiling, but still their hours were as nothing compared to the work he himself put in.

The word went out. Clever men in suits were employed to spread the message, to bring habringers of the coming of the new age. Rumours of the miracle of this fresh invention were carefully and scientifically placed and propagated in all corners of the green earth.

And after months of preparation, it was ready. He rented a suit. He stood nervously on the steps of the Town Hall, dignitaries surrounding him, press confronting him, a crowd hanging on his every word as he stammeringly, haltingly, did the best he could to put into words what he knew words could never describe. His vision, his dream, come to life. The device that would change all of their lives, and so much for the better.

He knew as he spoke that they were there, not to celebrate cheese, or to experience the possibility of altering their lives forever. They were there to capture failure in its first blush. They were there to see him fall. And he prayed, as he prepared to pull aside the drapery, that it was not all for naught. It had been would work now, wouldn't it? His was not a foolish fantasy? It really was real, yes?

It was time.

He unveiled.

And...the gasp.

The gasp that was heard around the world. Such a thing of beauty. Of impossible elegance and perfection, yet of such undeniable, irresistible substance and functionality. The first sight of it sent a shockwave of excitement through the crowd. When it was turned on...the thrill went to the core of every human present and struck outwards, like ripples on a stone-addled pond, like an exploding wheel of Brie.

Within a day the world was abuzz. Within a week seven hundred more devices were in production.

Within six months cheese consumption had multiplied tenfold. Within a year, a thousandfold.

Cheese had conquered the world. The plan had worked. Good had triumphed. Now, he could rest. And rest he did. Fabulously wealthy, wanting for nothing, he spent his days reclining in luxury, bringing forth from his vast refrigerated cheese vaults such a cornucopia of wonders as he would never have considered possible for such a poor, unremarkable specimen as himself. Now and then he spoke, he lectured on cheese, its significance, its history, its inimitable beauty and unparalleled mystique. He gained more honorary doctorates than he knew what to do with. He was in demand from social sets the world over. And always, the cheese. Whatever cheese he wanted. Soft, hard, pressed, unpressed, cow's milk, goat's milk. He discovered the exquisite taste of cheeses he had hitherto only dreamed about. Rare cheeses, exotic cheeses. Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Geitost, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Mascotta, Cheshire, Gloucester, Romano, Edam, Gouda, Colby, Pecorino, Munster, Stilton, Urda, Cas, Neufchatel, Paneer, Queso Fresco, Brousse, Chevre...these were a mere appetiser for the universe he was now wandering through. He had all he wanted, but far more importantly, to him, he had made a difference. He had opened the eyes of the world to cheese and all its possibilities. His goal was achieved, his purpose fulfilled. The world was a better, more fragrant, more joyous and lovely place because of him. People everywhere were happy, and cheese-filled. With this in mind, he could have remained a stick-thin pauper and been happy.

And then one day...not long after the unveiling...

He awoke and strode to the kitchen. Days of emaciation and filth long behind him, now sleek and filled with joie de vivre, he felt he would start another wonderful day with a hearty breakfast. His mood was mellow and old-fashioned. He decided on staunch traditionalism, withdrawing a mighty hunk of blazing yellow Swiss magic from its shelf. Seated at his broad breakfast table, he plunged in his knife, and took a weighy slice from the body, biting into it with the enthusiasm of the perfectly balanced. And as he bit, he felt something he had never before felt while eating cheese.


He blinked, confused. He bit again. Still nothing. No thrill, no tingling, no explosion of flavour, no electricity, not even the smallest frisson shooting through his body.

Perhaps, he thought, he had been overdoing the Swiss lately. Returning to the fridge, he withdrew a pungent slab of Limburger, and devoured the whole thing on the spot.


His tastebuds remained stoically indifferent. A sense of unease rising within him, he pulled out a ball of mozzarella, and gulped it down, with no more reaction from his physiology than if he had gorged himself on week-old rice cakes. No pleasure, no fizzing fireworks in the brain.

A wheel of Camembert, a scrap of Edam, a desperate scraping of Monterey Jack, all shovelled down, all with no result but a slightly heavier sensation in the stomach. Unease had turned to panic. Tears pricked his eyes and he fought them. This was cheese, he couldn't be feeling nothing. He simply had to find the right one to spark his old self to life again. Perhaps he had overslept and his system was not yet fully awake. He would perk himself up, and in the blink of an eye, his love affair with the curd and the mold would resume as passionately as ever.

And so, as he frantically boiled and downed a jug of coffee, he hurled as much cheese as he could into a saucepan and turned up the heat. Within minutes, he tipped the pan up and poured the cheese like boiling wine down his throat. The stream of boiling yellow fire scorched his oesophagus, but no more. Gasping, he fell to his knees and rummaged through his stocks some more.

Pulling cheese after cheese out, he tried each one. Yellow, white, blue, red, green...the most exotic cheeses from the most far-flung lands, the most unexpected animals, the most bizarre of homespun and high-tech techniques...and none of it changed a thing. Tears streamed down his face, his burning throat screamed at him, and his heart felt near to melting and running out his pores.

Finally he got to the back of the cabinet and brought forth the last. With wrappers and discarded pieces of cheese littering the floor around him, he sat miserably in the centre of his dairy graveyard and held the chunk of ordinary everyday cheddar in his lap. Cheddar was the beginning of his journey, and now...the end? Of late he had forgotten about good old cheddar, intoxicated by the enormity of his gift to humanity and the seemingly endless variety of impossible rarities hurled at him by the world's grateful cheesemakers. And yet...cheddar was the heart and soul of cheese, was it not? Cheddar. His old friend cheddar. He nursed it against his cheek, enjoying the coolness on his skin and whispering to it as to a secret lover. Cheddar would save him. he angled it wearily towards his aching, exhausted lips, and took a bite.

He chewed.

He swallowed.

And he knew, as the fragment travelled to its final destination, that he might just as well have bitten into the polystyrene packing the fridge arrived in. The truth fell on him like a ton of Parmesan.

He was dead. Dead to cheese.

He threw back his head and howled. All his work, all his striving and passion, returned in the shimmering air before his eyes, taunting and cackling at him.

And he fell face down on the kitchen floor, as the gutted Camembert mingled with his tears.

1 comment:

FiveFrogsBlog said...

I don't. Even. Wow. Poor Cheese Dude. I'll never look at cheddar in the same way again.