Last week on my neighbourhood WhatsApp group someone was giving away 90 slices of cheese: “Would anyone like sliced cheese? Or know anyone I can donate it to? Leftover from a school function?”
Yes! Me! I would like the leftover cheese! It was uncanny. I needed a lot of cheese for the weekend, and on Friday morning, a neighbour had some to give away.
That weekend I was hosting a party for around 50 people, and making a hundred sandwiches. I had ordered roast chicken, bread and avocados 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, like I had manifested it!”
That afternoon I collected the cheese and heard its origin story. It was leftover cheese from a primary school camp, and due to some health and safety law, even though it was properly sealed, they could not reuse it at the school. A student’s dad rescued it from going in the bin, but his family had a dairy intolerance. It was then given away on WhatsApp.
I was stoked about my good fortune, and felt virtuous about rescuing the cheese from the bin. Not only did I have free cheese but I was fighting waste and partaking in the circular economy. It was a glimpse into a more sustainable future … A Marxist cheese future where it was each according to his ability, each according to his need. (Or as French utopian Étienne-Gabriel Morelly proposed in his 1755 Code of Nature: “Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work.”)
Some people were suss on the cheese – but its use by date was December 2023!
🚩🚩🚩 I'm worried about the free cheese.
— Beverley Wang (@beverleywang) September 15, 2022
Could the free cheese end up causing sickness and death among my immediate family, and dozens of friends? Probably not, but I would soon find out.
I arrived at the venue just before the party and my mother had already taken over the making of the sandwiches. She had organised a production line with three others – buttering, deboning, seasoning, lettuce shredding and assembling.
I stood at the end, with nothing to do. Then suddenly it hit me. Noooooooooo!!!!!! I had left the cheese at home! Home was 25 minutes away. I had to return 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 silently, sandwiches mounting up. My mother was in charge and spoke with authority. “Forget the cheese. We don’t have time to go back and get it.”
“But … but …”
That night, I returned home from the party and opened the fridge. There sat the enormous bar of cheese. It looked like a lightsaber made out of toilet roll. It was sort of long and heavy. I could use it to club a home invader over the head, I supposed.
Far from seemingly like an incredible piece of luck – a bounty – the cheese had now become an encumbrance. What was I going to do with 90 pieces of cheese? It would stink out my fridge. It would take up valuable real estate in the middle shelf. I didn’t even really like that sort of cheese. It was not bougie enough for a cheese platter, and not moreish like halloumi. It was prole cheese.
I had to get rid of it somehow. A friend suggested that I try to give 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 letterbox, then run away. But I could not do that. Once you have the cheese, you have to pass it on to new people.
It was like the cheese was “it” – the horrific, tainted thing in children’s games of tag. No one wants to be it. People run screaming from you. You stand alone (or more aptly according to the children’s nursery rhyme “The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, heigh-ho, the merry-o, the cheese stands alone”).
Unwanted cheese (the cheese that stands alone) has dark overtones in the world of children.
In Diary of a Wimpy Kid there is a scene where there is a piece of gross cheese on the ground in the schoolyard. No one knew how it got there – it appeared “mysteriously”. Says one kid: “Nobody knew who it belonged to, nobody touched it. Nobody threw it away. So there it sat, growing more foul and powerful by the day.” Just like my cheese!
Then one day a kid named Darren Walsh “made the biggest mistake of his life”. He touched the cheese. He now had the “cheese touch”. Kids 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 an adult, bulk-buy cheese touch situation?
I believe so.
But one day, when I go to a friend’s house, and when they are distracted, I will whip out the 90 slices of cheese that I’ve hidden in my backpack, and put the cheese in their fridge. And they will have the cheese touch.
You have been warned.