Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cheesy Political use of Brie.

Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Tim Pawlently, the outgoing governor of Minnesota politicized cheese and wine:
“When you listen to the elites and the pundits talk about the tea party movement, when they talk about us conservatives, they may not always say it explicitly, but implicit in their comments is, ‘Maybe they’re not as sophisticated because a lot of them didn’t go to the Ivy league schools,’” he said. “'They’re from places like the heartland. They don’t hang out at chablis drinking, brie eating parties in San Francisco. They’re a little rough around the edges. They don’t dress like us. They actually enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart and Target. Sam’s Club Republicans.’”
The Spectator)
Of course, bashing education and foreign food is one of the traditional tenets of right-wing populism but it seems that Pawlently is a bit behind - like 20 years behind - for now brie and Chablis are both available in Wal-Mart. (granted, not in a very appealing form as you can see and probably tasting different from the original French Brie)
Even conservative commentators thought Pawlently's speech was passé ('Scuse my French) and cheesy!

Mark Mardell, the BBC's North America editor wrote a great piece on as to what it is about the American right and French cheese :
It was, I believe, the writer of The Simpsons who invented the sobriquet "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" for the French, but it was enthusiastically taken up by Republicans.
Tasty cheese, runny, smelly, even blue, is often used as a symbol of a revoltingly decadent taste, something far from the common people. That's rather the opposite of its image in France where this simple pleasure unites peasants and elite in both connoisseurship and dreams of a common rural idyll
One wouldn't have thought that the robust individuals of the conservative movement would wilt before strong flavours. They don't sneer at BBQ beef or chilli peppers, after all.
I have always suspected it has become a symbol of the alien and the foreign simply out of embarrassment. Americans have many skills, but cheese making doesn't appear among them, as anyone who attempts to chew on rubbery orange cheddar can attest.
But I've just finished reading The Cheese Nun, a chapter in a delightful compendium of food writing from the New Yorker, entitled Secret Ingredients.
It profiles an American nun who became an expert in microbiology to make better cheese. It contends that Americans make fantastic cheese, which - it argues - can only be made like moonshine, in secret, and sold under the counter, because of ridiculously tight food regulations.
A ripe case for small government conservatives, I would have thought. The Tea Party is all very well, but what about the Cheese and Wine Party?

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