new Things I Ate in Cambodia: The Presidency and Really Big Cheese

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Presidency and Really Big Cheese


I cannot actually vouch for Jefferson's opinion on the Packers, but I do know he looks hilarious in a cheese head hat.

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson was gifted a 16,000 pound cheese. Cheshire's Baptist pastor, one Elder John Leland, brainstormed the effort as a way to show his appreciation to the Republican President he had worked to elect - and also as an effort to stick it to his Federalist enemies. Baptists, at this particular juncture in American history, were both a beleaguered minority and ardent supporters of the separation of church and state. How things do change.

The cheese was created from the milk of every single cow in the small Massachusetts town of Cheshire, barring, of course, the Federalist owned bovines, "lest it should leaven the whole lump with a distasteful savour." At Leland's direction, the immense chunk of dairy bore one of Jefferson's own mottos: ""Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God."

Leland, however, did not consider the issue of transporting his cheesy monstrosity all the way to the Capital. As it turned out, the cheese was simply too big to be transported on wheels. But the cheese was created in winter, and Leland found a way. The dogged pastor ended up transporting his highly patriotic cheese on a sledge, all 500 miles to Washington. The cheese was delivered, appropriately, on January 1st 1802. Although the cheese garnered criticism from Leland's Baptist hatin' enemies, Jefferson was properly appreciative. He deemed the big-ass cheese an "extraordinary proof of the skill with which those domestic arts...are practiced by [the citizens of Cheshire]." In a private letter to his son-in-law, Jefferson went even further in his praise of the delicious gesture. "It is an ebullition of the passion of republicanism in a state where it has been under heavy persecution." The cheese remained in the White House as late as 1806 according to some accounts, at which time it was (shockingly) "very far from good." Perhaps Jefferson grew attached to it.

A statue saluting Leland and his magnificent cheese was erected in Cheshire in 1940. I smell a photo op!

But this was not the only incident of giant-cheese-making in the history of the American presidency.


I'm surprised no one lost a limb in the melee.

The populist Andrew Jackson featured 1,400 pound block of cheddar cheese at his last open White House party. Gifted to him by a supportive New York dairy farmer, the cheese was allowed to age for almost two years in the White House. Although the cheese was vast, the appetite of the people was greater. It is rumored that the cheese took no more then two hours to entirely disappear, and that the White House stank of cheese for week on end. (Incidentally, does Jackson remind anyone else of Sarah Palin? Run to Wikipedia real quick, then get back to me).

A detailed description of this magical event is found in "Real Life in the White House" by John and Claire Whitcomb.

""Shops and offices closed early, and a throng descended on the White House. The marshal of the city and his deputies screened people at the front door, but what a contemporary called 'rag-a-muffins of the city' got into the gardens, climbed to the terrace, and entered through the East Room windows to mix with congressmen, officers in dress uniform, and elaborately arrayed diplomats. The rooms overflowed with people, until the hall, the doorway, every possible space, were filled...The cheese was demolished in two hours; the White House floors and carpets were likewise demolished, and the mansion reeked of cheddar for months."



This is Calvin Coolidge. And this is his cat. Cats have nothing to do with cheese, but the Internet sure seems to like them.

One more big-ass cheese has entered the glorious gates of the White House. In 1928, "Silent Cal" Coolidge received a 140 pound Wisconsin made Swiss cheese - rather dwindling in comparison to the behemoths of his predecessors, but still worthy of eating with crackers. . Coolidge doubtless appreciated the gift, being an ardent cheese lover himself. He maintained a private stash of the stuff at the White House, nipping into it occasionally, one imagines, when the stress of farm subsidies became too great. (Seriously, his presidency was just that boring).

In more recent times, "Big Block of Cheese Day" was referenced on the White Wing. Apparently the ever-dashing Martin Sheen, in his simulated presidency, would host a day for usually over-looked interest groups to enter the white house, and presumably, nibble on the metaphorical cheese of Presidential attention. Or something like that.

It is evident that ridiculously huge blocks of cheese have played an important role in American history. Indeed, we may credit giant blocks of cheese with many of our successes as a sovereign nation. The great pageant of American history may not have been possible without the existence - and service - of these gigantic congealed chunks o' dairy. It is certain that these cheeses provided comfort and nutrition to both Presidents and common people, in need of savory succor in times of hardship, depression, and uncertainty.

So who wants to go in with me on a monstrously huge chunk o' Brie for Obama?

Anyone?

Stop making cricket noises.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not Brie - that's french and probably socialist cheese. Have to stick with American cheese. A giant block of Velvetta would have that populist touch.

Ndgree

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Root said...

I like it thanks you very much :x
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