Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Keele Diary #19

In my waning days at Keele, as I await a visit from an old college friend who is coming up to visit from Cornwall, my thoughts naturally turn to . . . cheese.

Because I'm not a dunderheaded asswit like Sean Hannity (and his ilk), discussions about countries being better than one another, and blindly jingoistic discussions about the United States being the greatest most awesome and fantastic and free and bestest country in the whole wide world hold little interest to me. Such preening simply re-enforces what the rest of the world thinks about Americans without contributing anything useful to our understanding of America and without recognizing that America's demonstrable greatness sill leaves us with a country riddled with flaws and shortcomings.

America is best understood as a country always in the process of becoming. One need not embrace a Whiggish interpretation of history to believe that the future can be better than the present, especially when it comes to the United States fulfilling ideals that even on paper have not always been especially virtuous (3/5 compromise, anyone?). I love my country. But that love is not blind, nor does it exist without an awareness that mine is not the only country worth loving. (And I suppose I am something of a country polygamist in any case; I love England and South Africa and Ireland and have had flings with several more in between, and if I'd have had a bit more time and a bit more money I'd have given in to Norway's and France's come hither looks a bit earlier in the month. Though I do always return to the United States in the end.)

Which is why I am thinking of cheese. Because I love cheese. Love love love love love it. Cheese makes just about everything better and makes almost nothing worse. And cheese in the UK and Ireland (and from what I understand almost all of Western Europe at the minimum) is a gazillion times better than the cheese in the United States.

"But dcat," I can hear you saying, "I can get excellent cheese in the United States if I go to the right places."

And this is true, sort of, though our regulation both of food generally and of foreign foodstuffs in particular means that actually it's not entirely true from both a quality and an availability perspective. And more to the point, good cheese in the United States is the domain of the affluent. If you are willing to spend $10 in the right kind of specialty shop you can get decent cheese, but in general, even that is likely to pale compared to the blocks of cheese that I can get for under £2 (the exchange rate can be volatile, but for now about $3.50) by randomly grabbing blindly whatever is available on the shelf at the on-campus grocery store, which no one confuses with an especially great grocer's. For real selection I would have to go into town where a fat man's bounty of cheese awaits. Still, just about any cheese I pick off the shelf here is going to be better than just about any cheese I pull off the shelf at a grocery store in the United States.

The same goes for chocolate. But I like cheese better and as both a consumer and someone who likes to cook, am on more solid ground discussing cheese. The cheese here is really freaking good.

So eat it, Hannity, you insufferable douchenozzle.


EB Soph mom said...

Mmmm, I agree...good cheese is a delight, no matter how you cut it...um...slice it.

And it's too bad it's so expensive here in the US. Your cheese rant puts me in mind of our recent visit to South America, and the lovely wines that could be had for very little money. The dinner bill was always a pleasant wonder.

dcat said...

Sophmom --
I cannot say the same about the price of dining in England, but I will get that pleasure in South Africa next month.