GREAT BRITISH FOOD HOME Snacks Traditional Food

Cheesed Off!

Cheesed off: to be a little bit cross about something; a bit “miffed” (as we say in Britain). You might be cheesed off about the traffic this morning, or because the shop had just run out of the One Thing you went for (for me, there was no organic kale in Waitrose today. Grrrr). [First world problems, Nicer Kate. Ed] You don’t get cheesed off about the big things though, like war, or famine or disease. It’s simply not strong enough. So, keep it for the small stuff.

We British love our cheese. I might suggest that we are a little obsessed by it [but that could just be us  two– Ed]. Granted, we don’t eat as much as our European neighbours (only 10kg per person, per year, as compared to nearly twice that in France), but we have more named, distinct varieties of cheese than the French. We have over 700, whereas, apparently the French have 350-450. I understand that the French are a bit cheesed off about that (ho ho), but it’s true and so there.

However, it also seems that some of us Brits are very conservative in our cheese eating habits: for example, 55% of the cheese bought in the UK is cheddar, although this is perhaps understandable, as it is the most widely produced and eaten cheese in the world. People over the age of 45 are more adventurous, according to the British Cheese Board. And yes, the British Cheese Board is actually a thing. Can you imagine? A group of people whose job it is to promote cheese. It is also what you call a collection of cheeses on a board, usually served at the end of the meal, and this too makes me giggle. In any case, I definitely want a job there.

We host events about cheese – in the village of Stilton, they roll huge Stilton cheeses along obstacle courses in the street. At the annual Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire, huge numbers of people climb the extremely steep Cooper’s Hill and race back down it in the hope of catching the cheese (and not breaking their leg). No one ever manages to catch it, but it doesn’t stop people trying (and breaking their legs).

Most are named after the area they come from (Cheddar, Cheshire, Red Leicester, Caerphilly, Stilton, etc), some have their own DOP (including Stilton) and in common with many British foodstuffs, many have strange names. Yarg is a Cornish cheese wrapped in nettle leaves, which gets its name from a recipe found in the farmer’s loft, written by Mr Gray. (Yep, read it backwards.)

My favourite weird name has to be Stinking Bishop though.  It does wang (1) a bit, it is true (but no more than some of the blue cheeses), and is in fact quite mild. It’s called Stinking Bishop after the perry (pear cider) used to wash the rind, and the perry is called Stinking Bishop after a local farmer called Fred Bishop who lived in the Gloucestershire region where it is made in the mid 19th century, and was a party-loving drinker famous for riotous behaviour. It does smell of old socks, and as a nod of respect to this, it was used to revive Wallace from the dead in the film Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit.

Still, I can think of worse ways of being brought back to life.  Try it if you can, and there’ll be nothing to be cheesed off about, I promise.


(1) to wang – to smell bad; also (in the UK) to pong; to stink; to whiff; to reek…we have so many synonyms, it’s almost as though we like talking about bad smells.


© 2016 Kayte & Nicer Kate – authors assert moral rights


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