Thursday, 23 February 2012

Fromage by any other name would smell as feet

00:12:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , 6 comments

That's right, I'm reaching for the food analogy. It has absolutely nothing to do with my stomach. Nor is it related to the fact that there is a piece of Stilton waming up in the kitchen as I type. Surely my train of thought is not so transparent? I'll side-step the lovely image of a transparent train as well as the observation that last week in a supermarket, walking behind a woman with a limp, I uttered the words: "Ooh, that reminds me, I found a really cool walking stick on Ebay..." Damn. Not so much a train of thought as a wild horse. Now. Where did I put the track. Oh yes...

Literary fiction is Stinking Bishop. It is Roquefort. It is Saint Agur. It is a little bit scary and is a taste which is to be acquired. Aptly, my approaches to blue cheese and literary fiction are rather similar. When I first discovered Danish Blue, while waiting tables at at hotel at the innocent age of 14, I found that just the smell of it would turn my stomach. If it was out of the fridge my nose knew it before my eyes. For some, this experience would have deterred them from the veined, festering dairy product. Not me. Instead I was obsessed by the stuff. I would force myself to smell the cheese whenever I thought I could get away with it and maintain my dignity. I knew there must be something good about that cheese. Only a spectacular taste would compel others to pass it under their noses and into their mouths. So, eventually I tasted the cheese. It was disgusting. I tried it again. It was still disgusting. I tried it again. And I began to find it less disgusting and found the tingling sensation, as my tongue became slightly swollen, rather intriguing.

These days it's hard to come by a blue cheese that will cause my mouth to itch in horror but I keep looking. And literary fiction moves in the same mysterious way. It's a little bit scary at first. Approaching it is greatly helped by word of mouth and the support of a reading group or education, so - like blue cheese - it is best enjoyed in company when the ripeness of the language can be properly shared and mulled over. Literary fiction, like blue cheese, works best when supported by the right accompaniment; Wikipedia works well, as do numerous forums on which you can explore the finer details of a character's flaws to your heart's content.

Commercial fiction, on the other hand, is a good, reliable cheddar. You can toast it, slice it and grate it safe in the knowledge that it won't do funny things to your poo. You can chuck it into most dishes and it'll add cheesy, fatty goodness without destroying the underlying flavours. Obviously, as with commercial fiction, not all cheddars are alike. Some are blocks of tasteless rubber which fester at the back of the fridge (bookshelf) until they finally make their way, fluffy and grey, to the bin (charity shop). But there are some damned fine cheddars out there. When I'm down and I need comfort I reach for the cheddar because I know it will fill a hole pleasantly. It will cheer me up and transport me to a world of cheesy freedom where nobody challenges my assumptions and I don't have to look up long words. A warm summer's afternoon in the garden with a good piece of cheddar, a sliced Cox's apple and a copy of I Shall Wear Midnight is as close to content as I get.

In summary. Cheddar is popular, fictional escapism. Because humans like comfort. Blue cheese is challenging literary endeavours. Because sometimes we need earthquakes too.


Ste said...

Nice metaphor there. Cheese as literature. Quite fitting really as, in my opinion, the British do both best ;)

Lindsay said...

What a perfect analogy. There is still nothing on this planet which will make me try blue cheese ever again though. It is far too strong for me, I can't even eat processed meat the taste makes me heave, some think I'm fussy, I just have sensitive taste buds. Literary fiction yes I do partake when in the right mood though, and you've described how I approach it perfectly. But blue cheese does strange things to your poo?

Ashley R Lister said...

So, this would suggest that Jack Kerouac's pop haikus (as a random example) would be Kraft slices? Or would they be more like Dairylea triangles?

I think this is a brilliant metaphor. And not just because it made me hungry whilst I was reading it.


Danielle Rose said...

Great post. :]x

Ste said...

Of course, this means that we now have a new name for Lara and Shaun's stuff - 'Sheese Poetry' ;D

I like where this is going. Me and Sarah always wanted to make a 'collage as a homage to fromage' - making a pic out of cheese wrappers.

And, of course Cathedral City have a poem for their advert. And creativity has to do with dreaming, and cheese makes you dream...

You may have hit on something here, vicky...

Wine and Cheese night! Wine and Cheese night!

Lara Clayton said...

Absolutely brilliant metaphor, which explains literary fiction and commercial fiction in a clear and imaginative way.
Wonderful post :)

Ps. Ste, I love the 'Sheese Poetry'