Last week on my neighborhood WhatsApp group someone gave away 90 slices of cheese: “Anyone want sliced cheese? Or do you know someone I can donate it to? Leftovers from a school function?”
Yes! Me! I would like leftover cheese! It was eerie. I needed a lot of cheese for the weekend, and on Friday morning a neighbor had some to give away.
That weekend I hosted a party for about 50 people, and made a hundred sandwiches. I had ordered fried chicken, bread and avocado, but not the cheese.
All day I went around telling people about this modern miracle.
“I need a lot of cheese, and then suddenly it appeared on WhatsApp, which I had manifested it!”
That afternoon I collected the cheese and heard the story of its origin. It was leftover cheese from a primary school camp and due to some health and safety law, even though it was properly sealed, they couldn’t reuse it in the school. The father of a student saved it from going in the trash, but his family had a dairy intolerance. It was then given away on WhatsApp.
Overwhelmed by my good fortune, I felt virtuous in rescuing the cheese from the bin. Not only did I have free cheese, but I fought against waste and participated in the circular economy. It was a glimpse into a more sustainable future… A Marxist cheese future where it was each according to ability, each according to need. (Or as the French utopian Étienne-Gabriel Morelly suggested in his 1755 Codex Naturae: “Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as personal property or as capital goods, except those things for which the person has immediate use, for neither his needs, his pleasures or his daily work.”)
Some were suss on the cheese – but the expiry date was December 2023!
Could the free cheese end up causing illness and death among my immediate family and dozens of friends? Probably not, but I will find out soon.
I arrived at the venue just before the party and my mother had already taken over making the sandwiches. She had organized a production line with three others – greasing, boning, seasoning, shredding salad and assembly.
I stood at the end, with nothing to do. Then suddenly it hit me. Nooooooooo!!!!!! I had left the cheese at home! Home was 25 minutes away. I had to go back to get the cheese! The guests were about to arrive, they had to be fed. They had to have the rehoused cheese!
The assembly line was focused, they worked quietly, sandwiches sat up. My mother was in charge and spoke with authority. “Forget the cheese. We don’t have time to go back and get it.”
“Oh well …”
That night I came home from the party and opened the fridge. There sat the enormous cheese bar. It looked like a lightsaber made of toilet roll. It was kind of long and heavy. I could use it to whack an intruder over the head, I supposed.
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Far from seeming like an incredible piece of luck – a bounty – the cheese had now become a liability. What would I do with 90 pieces of cheese? It would stink up my fridge. That would take up valuable middle shelf real estate. I didn’t even like that kind of cheese. It wasn’t bougie enough for a cheese platter, and no more like halloumi. It was prole cheese.
I had to get rid of it somehow. A friend suggested I try giving it away again on the original WhatsApp thread where I had so greedily claimed it in the first place. Another suggested I return it to the people who gave it to me, put it in their mailbox and then run away. But I couldn’t do that. Once you get the cheese, you have to pass it on to new people.
It was as if the cheese was “it” – the hideous, tainted thing in children’s games. Nobody wants to be it. People run screaming from you. You stand alone (or more aptly according to the nursery rhyme “The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, heigh-ho, merry-o, the cheese stands alone”).
Junk cheese (the cheese that stands alone) have dark overtones in the children’s world.
In Diary of a Wimpy Kid there is a scene where a piece of coarse cheese is lying on the ground in the school yard. No one knew how it got there – it seemed “mysterious”. A boy says: “No one knew who it belonged to, no one touched it. No one threw it. So there it sat, getting uglier and more powerful every day.” Just like my cheese!
Then one day a boy named Darren Walsh made the biggest mistake of his life. He touched the cheese. He now had the “cheese touch”. Children ran away from him screaming. He became an outcast. The only way to get rid of the cheese touch was to pass it on to someone else.
Was I involved in a grown-up situation with the bulk purchase of cheese?
I think so.
But one day, when I go to a friend’s house and they are distracted, I will whip out the 90 slices of cheese I have hidden in my backpack and put the cheese in their refrigerator. And they want the cheesy touch.
You have been warned.