Writer's Whey: The Great Cheeses of Literature | culture: the word on cheese
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Writer’s Whey: The Great Cheeses of Literature

Each week, culture intern Katherine will scour great works of literature for all the cheesy details your English teacher never showed you. Authors often include many mentions of food and drink in their written works to give the reader a small glimpse into the culture and historical foodways of a particular place and era. Sometimes the author writes about food with a generous pen, describing a dish in great detail. But more often than not, these great literary works skip over such ordinary details, leaving the reader to figure it out on their own. These blog posts will lend the reader a helping hand and shed some light on the cheeses between the lines of the literary greats.

Original photo by Target Audience Magazine; design by Katherine Hysmith


Have you ever wondered what type of cheese Mr. Darcy uses for his Welsh Rarebit? Were you ever curious about the maritime cheese rations available aboard the whaling ship Pequod while it searched the seas for Moby Dick? Did you know that beneath the endless blood, boat rides, and ballads in Homer’s Odyssey there are detailed descriptions of cheese caves and ancient Greek cheese making techniques?

A page from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1907


Unless your high school English teacher was a real cheesehead, you’ve probably never even heard of any of these great cheeses of literature. But fear not, with our powers combined—whatever you remember from 10th grade English and my finally applicable undergraduate literature degree—we’ll explore the great literary works and the various cheeses they hold within. From Jane Austen to Herman Melville and beyond, this blog will feature a new work of literature and a new kind of cheese each week, touching on topics like literary history, regional cheese making techniques, and historical consumer trends. This blog will pay particular attention to cultural foodways, which is a nifty term that describes the eating habits and culinary practices of a culture, people, historical era, or region. At the end of each post, we’ll point you to the cheese that most resembles the literary great featured that week and what other historically accurate foods the author might have paired with it. But don’t worry, although Austen most likely paired calf’s foot jelly with her cream cheese, we won’t recommend that you do—unless you’re into that kind of thing. So pull up a chair, grab a snack (cheese is always a good option), and get ready for some Caerphilly close reading.


Leave a comment below, telling us about your favorite literary cheese before 12:00 PM EST, Monday, October 7, 2013 for a chance to win a copy of culture: the word on cheese’s upcoming 2013 special edition magazine; one winner will be chosen at random from all commenters. At the end of the blog series, we will choose one lucky commenter to win a gift package including a year’s subscription to culture, a copy of our special Best 101 Cheeses of the Year issue, and a literary cheese from this series.

Katherine Hysmith

Katherine was a social media intern for culture and a fan of all things Southern. Born and raised in Texas, Katherine recently moved up north to pursue a graduate degree in the Gastronomy Program at Boston University. When she's not researching for her Master's thesis or dreaming about jalapeno cheese poppers, Katherine writes on her own blog The Young Austinian ( http://www.youngaustinian.com/ ).

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