Kiwis love cheese, apparently
Two weeks ago I wrote of receiving a gift pack from Wellington artisan cheesemakers, Zany Zeus, who were also keen to sling a few of their famous cheeses in the post to a reader of my choosing.
So I threw down the cheesy gauntlet: whoever sent in the most entertaining cheese-related email within the week would get the prize.
Within a few hours of the Sunday Star-Times hitting news stands, I found myself drowning in a flood of incoming odes to creatively curdled milk fat.
By Sunday evening, my inbox was so ripe with cheesy limericks, acrostic poems, sonnets, riddles and puns, the pong in my office was overwhelming.
Since then there have been well over 100 emails; far too many to quote here, despite their brilliance.
There were cheese-hungry pensioners pleading poverty, literature lovers who put a fondue-friendly spin on Milton, Coleridge and Keats, even a rhyming confession from one randy gent who used dairy products to get his future wife in the sack.
I received an entire jukebox of cheesy song titles from Catherine Robertson, among them "Lay Leyden Lay" by Bob Dylan, "Cheddar Tear" by 80s pop moppets Wet Wet Wet and "Dam The Edam" by our own John Hanlon.
Best of the bunch, given the powerfully addictive qualities of the subject at hand, was "Cheese Release Me" by Engelbert Humperdinck.
Taumaranui man Len Cooke reported attending his nephew's wedding in Cyprus where an elderly woman offered him a giant bag of her handmade halloumi if he would marry her.
Law student Natalie Julian cunningly worked the threat of litigation into her limerick: "Here's a law student ever so gloomy/ Dreaming of Zany Zeus halloumi/ Pretty pretty please/ Send me the cheese/ She cried, "I love it, so sue me!"
Judith Doherty made me blush with her declaration that cheese was "like oral sex but better", and there was a lovely letter from Didier, a Frenchman who admitted he used to raid the cheese cellar during summer holidays while his grandpere took an afternoon siesta.
Maree Dunham composed this splendid limerick: "There was an auld hack who loved cheese/ It infected him like a disease/ He'd think of the cream/ An unfeta'ed blue dream/ But the gift basket should be Maree's."
Roger Morony wrote a ripping yarn about haranguing the vicar for fine fromage after being informed "You'll find your way with Cheesus", and Hamilton's Greig McGill almost won the day with this superb haiku: "A summer of cheese/ How else does one fill the days/ But chewing the fat?"
There were tales of dairy disasters, too. Richard Cook from Tapanui told of carefully following the cheesemaker's instructions when maturing a soft cheese then unwrapping it on the appointed day "only to be confronted by a mass of chubby white maggots".
Takaka's Michael Delceg took an overipe wheel of Stilton as a gift when visiting friends in New Hampshire, but the ungrateful sods found it too strong and chucked it out the window onto the snowy roof below. Come the spring thaw, it reappeared to haunt the inhabitants, its stink now much magnified.
Alexander Simpson recalled flying home from France to London with a couple of particularly pungent cheeses. "Before we reached the English coast I was aware of a niff in the air and wondered if someone in the nearby seats had farted". When the plane landed and he opened the overhead locker, "the cabin was blasted by a tsunami of farmyard stink." His parcel had been directly above one of the cabin lights, and a reeking puddle of melted Munster and Epoisse was oozing everywhere, so Alexander left it there, grabbed his briefcase and scarpered.
My thanks goes to everyone who wrote in, but there can be only one winner, and that is articulate Auckland schoolgirl Orla Porten. Orla's email had it all. She painted a vivid picture of hungry Brits pursuing wheels of Double Gloucester down steep hills, dug up dubious statistics ("last year, NZ produced 310,000 tonnes of cheese, the equivalent weight of EIGHT Sky Towers!"), shamelessly invoked nationalism ("Cheese is very important to NZ, so if you love your country, you should love cheese!") and was unafraid to generate whiffy Shakespearean puns ("To brie or not to brie, that is the question").
She even mulled over her dad's assertion that you can kill a zombie with a block of cheese. "I reckon the best way to do that is to freeze the cheese and throw it at its head. Or better yet, use a block of stinky Stilton to frighten it off a cliff. Of course, it helps if the zombie is lactose intolerant."
Best of all, she's only nine.
Orla represents the next generation of young cheese lovers, and her obsession should be encouraged in every way possible. A wee cheese parcel from Zany Zeus is on its way.
Sunday Star Times