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Eating in

TS Eliot’s ode to English cheese

Wensleydale was “the Mozart of cheese”, according to TS Eliot. Shutterstock

English cheese is not to be sniffed at, says John Smart in the literary magazine Slightly Foxed. In 1935 a Frenchman visiting London, Theodore Rousseau, was so impressed by the stuff that he wrote a letter to The Times. Why do the English not take more pride in their native dairy products, he lamented. If France had invented something as delicious as stilton, a statue would have been erected – as was the case for the creator of camembert, Marie Harel.

The response was spirited. Writer and magazine editor Sir John Squire “pounced on the complaint”. Squire adored stilton (“this noble fragrant cheese, the cheese of poets”) and seconded Rousseau’s call for a statue. He was ready to start a fund and duly became chairman of the Stilton Memorial Committee.

TS Eliot wasn’t so sure. The poet was a cheese-lover, but thought Squire was a hopeless reactionary. Still, he wrote in as well, praising Squire’s “manly and spirited defence” of stilton. Wensleydale, he said, was better (“the Mozart of cheese”), but that was beside the point. “This is no time for disputes between eaters of English cheese. The situation is precarious and we must stick together.” The stilton statue never happened, says Smart, but Rousseau, Squire and Eliot would be pleased with the state of British cheese today. Eighty years on, the industry is worth £615m.

Ingredient of the week: vegan bacon

Gordon Ramsay has mastered the plant-based BLT in a viral TikTok video. To make vegan bacon, marinate rice paper in garlic powder, nutritional yeast, paprika, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, soy sauce, sriracha and vegan butter. Then crumble tofu between two layers of the rice paper and bake. It’s so good, I’m turning vegan, says the chef. “For lunch.” Watch the TikTok here.