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Mental Floss has abducted me

It’s clear now that I will not have time to write for both Mental Floss and this silly (unpaid) cheese blog. So I’m siding with Mental Floss, which sends checks. After Cheese Comes Nothing will be awarded an indefinite hiatus.

Meanwhile, you really should read my Mental Floss articles. Here’s the first regular offering. As you can see, I am no longer restricted to cheese. This bothers me a little, and it might bother you; but maybe it will open broad and beautiful new horizons? I don’t know exactly when my weekly posts will go up, but you can always keep checking, or bookmark my author page or something like that. The internet should be able to figure out a way to help you. Consider this a change of address, friends.

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Mental Floss Guest Cheese-Blogging

The story is:

I have a little piece about cheese changing the lives of holy women that’s going to be published in an upcoming edition of mental_floss magazine.

Besides that, I have five Guest Blog post going up this week on the mental_floss webpage. That’s one for every day of the week. Which means three have already comes out. Here they are:

You may read them, if you’d like. Everything on the internet is voluntary. There’s more to come tomorrow and Friday — something about cheese mites and something else about something else.

You might notice I’ve had to make some adjustments in tone and breadth for this legitimate enterprise. No Bert and Ernie, yet. But it’s gone well. And I’m not sure when I’ll be posting here next, still, because I’ll probably be doing some more writing for them in the near future. 

Let’s just wait and see.

Pending

I realize I haven’t informed the curious, if there are any, of the reason for this recent dearth of posts. It’s good news.

I’m working on some pieces for publication, along the lines of what I’ve been doing here — a little shorter — containing some of what you’ll find below, and some new material — all written afresh. New words!

So: I’ll link to those pieces when they’re out. And we’ll see what happens from there.

Beckett and Joyce on Gorgonzola Cheese

Now, at last, for a literary interlude, I must offer two passages from Irish modernist prose, both of which feature Gorgonzola as their creamy centers.

Beckett’s More Pricks Than Kicks — his first published prose fiction, if I remember right (1934) — is something like a collection of short stories centered on the character Belacqua. Burning toast to an indigestible blackness is part of the refined, almost scientific lunchtime routine for this obsessive and compulsive youth; after which he sets out for the rotten cheese to complement: Gorgonzola.

Now the great thing was to avoid being accosted. To be stopped at this stage and have conversational nuisance committed all over him would be a disaster. His whole being was straining forward towards the joy in store. If he were accosted now he might just as well fling his lunch into the gutter and walk straight back home. Sometimes his hunger, more of mind, I need scarcely say, than of body, for this meal amounted to such a frenzy that he would not have hesitated to strike any man rash enough to buttonhole and baulk him, he would have shouldered him out of his path without ceremony. Woe betide the meddler who crossed him when his mind was really set on his meal.

He threaded his way rapidly, his head bowed, through the familiar labyrinth of lanes and suddenly dived into a little family grocery. In the shop they were not surprised. Most days, about this hour, he shot in off the street in this way.

The slab of cheese was prepared. Separated since morning from the piece, it was only waiting for Belacqua to call and take it. Gorgonzola cheese. He knew a man who came from Gorgonzola, his name was Angelo. He had been born in Nice but all his youth had been spent in Gorgonzola. He knew where to look for it. Every day it was there, in the same corner, waiting to be called for. They were very decent obliging people.

He looked sceptically at the cut of cheese. He turned it over on its back to see was the other side any better. The other side was worse. They had laid it better side up, they had practised that little deception. Who shall blame them? He rubbed it. It was sweating. That was something. He stopped and smelt it. A faint fragrance of corruption. What good was that? He didn’t want fragrance, he wasn’t a bloody gourmet, he wanted a good stench. What he wanted was a good green stenching rotten lump of Gorgonzola cheese, alive, and by God he would have it.

He looked fiercely at the grocer.

‘What’s that?’ he demanded.

The grocer writhed.

‘Well?’ demanded Belacqua, he was without fear when roused, ‘is that the best you can do?’

‘In the length and breadth of Dublin,’ said the grocer, ‘you won’t find a rottener bit this minute.’

Belacqua was furious. The impudent dogsbody, for two pins he would assault him.

‘It won’t do,’ he cried, ‘do you hear me, it won’t do at all. I won’t have it.’ He ground his teeth.

The grocer, instead of simply washing his hands like Pilate, flung out his arms in a wild crucified gesture of supplication. Sullenly Belacqua undid his packet and slipped the cadaverous tablet of cheese between the hard cold black boards of the toast. He stumped to the door where he whirled round however.

‘You heard me?’ he cried.

‘Sir’ said the grocer. This was not a question, nor yet an expression of acquiescence. The tone in which it was let fall made it quite impossible to know what was in the man’s mind. It was a most ingenious riposte.

‘I tell you’ said Belacqua with great heat ‘this won’t do at all. If you can’t do better than this’ he raised the hand that held the packet ‘I shall be obliged to go for my cheese elsewhere. Do you mark me?’

‘Sir’ said the grocer.

And now, from Joyce’s Ulysses: Leopold Bloom considers lunch, while struggling to keep his mind off his wife’s approaching adultery. He’s troubled by the carnivorous gluttony of his fellow customers (“Eat or be eaten. Kill! Kill!”), and so shuns beef for the moment. Almost settles on a sardine — the last lonely sardine of summer — but then asks at last for a Gorgonzola sandwich. Some critics, the Bloomlovers, consider his decision a sensitive compromise between the thesis of bloody meat and the antithesis of flimsy vegetarianism: a synthesis in the form of an animal food that does not entail the death of the animal. Richard Ellmann, who wrote the fat Joyce biography you will find at your bookstore, thought a Gorgonzola sandwich was the best existential choice, “because cheese is neither vegetable nor meat: it is formed from mammal’s milk without slaughter, and enclosed in bread which is vegetable in origin but reconstructed by man.” And what does Bloom think?

Kosher. No meat and milk together. Hygiene that was what they call now. Yom Kippur fast spring cleaning of inside. Peace and war depend on some fellow’s digestion. Religions. Christmas turkeys and geese. Slaughter of innocents. Eat drink and be merry. Then casual wards full after. Heads bandaged. Cheese digests all but itself. Mitey cheese.

Not the most immediately decipherable passage — but very nice, I think, and potent. Later, Bloom’s stream of consciousness dwells on

the feety savour of green cheese.

Ah yes.

Pervert.

Graukäse photos by Mr. FX

Taking a brief detour from all that Gorgonzola jabber —

Anyone with any interest in:

1. Peasant cheeses

2. Ancient cheeses

3. Farmstead or home kitchen cheesemaking

4. Shapely wooden kitchen utensils (now your mouth must be watering, your head spinning, your fluids leaking . . .)

should take a few minutes to look at Mr. FX’s recent photo essay on farmstead Graukäse. This “primeval” cheese of Tyro demands no fancy techno-industrial hoohaw and gadgetry — not even rennet. The raw milk, left to sit, curdles itself and cultivates its own bacterial garden. But Mr. FX has already said what needs to be said in his post. So I will get back to making Thanksgiving pies and cultivating my holiday paunch.


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