26 August 2007

Cheese in Literature

I was recently reading Tristan Jones’ Saga of a Wayward Sailor detailing his adventure after coming free of the arctic ice. There’s an outstanding tale of making passage through the dutch canals and meeting Dirk Van Scheltema, a warehouse security guard. They hit it off and Dirk offers to return to the boat with cheese for Tristan. True to his word he returns with 200 Edam cheeses (stolen). When he attempts to depart for France the extra weight of all the cheeses has sunk his ship into the mud. Instead of jettisoning the cheese, he chooses to heave his non-functioning engine overboard, removing enough weight to free him. In the next chapter, he reaches France and ends up trading much of the cheese for a brand new engine.

And actually I just found an excerpt on Google books: http://tinyurl.com/ypjsqj It’s a quick and entertaining read.

Anyone know of other cheese references in literature??


  1. This is s wonderful tale of priorities. How approrpiate indeed to favor a collection of tasty cheese over a piece of non-functioning metal. While I don't remember precisely, my sense is that cheese is involved in some capacity in one of the opening scenes of Moby Dick. When Ishmael begins to tell the tale of his arrival on the coast of Massachusetts, in the frigidness of a late New England winter, he takes a meal or two that I believe involves hunks of cheese, soup, and bread. Can anyone back me up on this?

  2. I, too, am looking for the use of cheese in literature. I'm teaching Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat." In at least two passages he makes reference to the "sacred cheese." So I'm researching the use of cheese as something sacred.
    I found an ancient Greek story of space travelers who were swallowed by a whale and ended up in a sacred lake of milk and came to rest on the isle of cheese which is near paradise.
    Also, cheese was used as currency in several European countries in the 12-16 centuries.

  3. So what about the words of the marooned pirate in R L Stevenson's Treasure Island:

    But, mate, my heart is sore for Christian diet. You mightn't happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well, many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese--toasted, mostly--and woke up again, and here I were."

    Or that the Bible tells us that David was only on the scene to fight Goliath becasue he'd been ordered to deliver cheese to the Israelite army?

  4. Indeed, how can one forget Treasure Island.

    As for the David and Goliath reference, I had to look back to find the text. In the Book of Samuel, Prophets, Old Testament, there is a passage about cheese. David is about to go visit his rothers in battle. Samuel 17:17-25: "Then Jesse said to David his son, 'Take now for your brothers an ephah of this roasted grain and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to your brothers. Bring also these ten cuts of cheese to the commander of their thousand, and look into the welfare of your brothers, and bring back news of them."