How wrong can a person be? I should have known better. Less than 24 hours after starting this blog and bemoaning the lack of literary attention to cheese, what do I find? A site lauding James McIntyre, described as Canada’s worst poet. McIntyre penned such classics as Ode on the Mammoth Cheese: Weight over Seven Thousand Pounds, Fertile Lands and Mammoth Cheese, Hints to Cheesemakers, and the surely underappreciated Lines Read at the Dairymaid’s Social, 1887. More embarassing still is that McIntyre was based in my own backyard and wrote about late 19th century cheese-making in southern Ontario. How could I have missed this man?
Follow-up sleuthing brought up more cheesy poetic ventures. Following in McIntyre’s footsteps is Shirley Lovell, Cheese Poet Laureate of Ingersoll, Ontario. According to the James McIntyre Poetry Contest site, “[n]ot only is she a Witty Poet, she is a life-long resident of the area and an accomplished cheesemaker, she was also the Curator of the Ingersoll Cheese Factory Museum from 1988 to 2004.”
Even more promising is Petra Cooper’s sponsorship of cheese poetry writing contests. The results of this collaboration with her friend John Weir, who teaches creative writing at the University of Manitoba, can be downloaded from the Fifth Town Atisan Cheese Co. site. Perhaps Chesterton can rest easy in his grave. Poetic voices are rising.
Check out the Fifth town site while you’re there. Their new facility aims to be Platinum accredited under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. They’re also Local Food Plus Certified, using milk produced by farms that follow sustainable practices, treat animals humanely, operate according to environmental farm plans, and use non-gmo feed.
We’ve come a long way from the vision of industrial cheese production that inspired one of McIntyre’s classics – Prophecy of a Ten Ton Cheese. Here it is.
Prophecy of a Ten Ton Cheese
In presenting this delicate, dainty morsel to the imagination of the people, I believed that it could be realized. I viewed the machine that turned and raised the mamoth cheese, and saw the powerful machine invented by James Ireland at the West Oxford companies factory to turn the great and fine cheese he was making there. This company with but little assistance could produce a ten ton cheese.
Who hath prophetic vision sees In future times a ten ton cheese, Several companies could join To furnish curd for great combine More honor far than making gun Of mighty size and many a ton.
Machine it could be made with ease That could turn this monster cheese, The greatest honour to our land Would be this orb of finest brand, Three hundred curd they would need squeeze For to make this mammoth cheese.
So British lands could confederate Three hundred provinces in one state, When all in harmony agrees To be pressed in one like this cheese, Then one skillful hand could acquire Power to move British empire.
But various curds must be combined And each factory their curd must grind, To blend harmonious in one This great cheese of mighty span, And uniform in quality A glorious reality.
But it will need a powerful press This cheese queen to caress, And a large extent of charms Hoop will encircle in its arms, And we do not now despair, But we shall see it at world's fair.
And view the people all agog, so Excited o'er it in Chicago, To seek fresh conquests queen of cheese She may sail across the seas, Where she would meet reception grand From the warm hearts in old England.