A Discourse on the Origin of Cheese

Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you today with a question of the utmost importance: The origin and nature of that delicious and inimitable substance, CHEESE. Where did it come from? How was it discovered? In what way was it bestowed upon humanity to enjoy it forever more? I propose here two theories, of alternate and conflicting nature, that have resulted from arduous and lengthy research, which have taken me many years to discover and elucidate. I have finally achieved a point in my research where these two theories bear equal evidence in their favor; I can see no other way to continue in this process than by putting the question forth to other scientists and subject matter experts, and it is in this spirit that I come before you to ask for your opinions, theories, or ideas on the origins of this mysterious, heavenly substance. I ask that my readers, who are undoubtedly professionals in your own right, well-established in your separate fields, weigh in and lend your intelligence and judgment to this matter of eminent importance to the modern academic world.

The first theory which I have discovered is somewhat mythical in its own right, that is, that those as-yet-unproven creatures known as “unicorns” craft cheese using magical substances that can only be elicited from their hooves and horns. This theory, confirmed by many a horse with whom I have conversed (for it is well known that horses call unicorns their ancestors, as evidenced by their similarity of shape and size, as well as their elegance), seems unlikely at first glance but is plausibly confirmed by reputable sources.

The first record of the relations between unicorns and cheese was reported by Confucius, where it is noted in the Analects that this master of spirituality once remarked “Ask not whether the cheese came before the unicorn, or the unicorn before the cheese, for they are so intricately connected that one cannot separate the one from the other”. The oral and written record continues from there. Several fragments of Orientalizing-period Greek urns appear depict strange hoofed animals with a single horn (now assumed to be unicorns) pointed at a large bowl or plate, as surrounding women looked on with awed and respectful expressions. One of the most celebrated historical examples of this connection comes from the evidence, in many a medieval lectern, that the European and Arabian alchemists, before they engaged the task of crafting gold from lesser metals, busied themselves attempting to determine the physical matter of cheese, that they might distill it to produce the ever-more-valuable unicorn horn. And of course, most recently, there is the strange, brief, and still-inexplicable paragraph in Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”, of which the most important part reads as follows:

“Some of the strangest objects which I saw on my travels were those that have a similar spiral structure to that of a conch horn, but are perfectly conically-shaped and shimmer and glisten like mother-of-pearl. I have found two or three of these peculiarities, always in close proximity to the famous cheese-shoppes of the land and surrounded by crumbles of the delicious stuff.”

Though Darwin did not deign to comment on the possible evolutionary link between cheese and unicorns, the testimony he provides gives yet another piece of evidence to support this strangest of theories, that unicorns are directly responsible for bestowing cheese upon humanity.

It is worth noting, too, that the licensed company Unicorn Cheese cites on its website that, in crafting its modern cheese, it “attempts to maintain the mystical properties first imbued into cheese by its original creators, those beautiful unicorns after which we have named our company.”*

The second theory may appear at first glance to be more plausible, that the first pot of “gold” ever discovered at the end of a rainbow actually contained not gold but that far more valuable substance which is the subject of this discussion. It appears more plausible because rainbows that trail down to pots of priceless treasure have, on very rare occasions, been tracked and actually discovered. The first leprechaun to prove the existence of these pots was the infamous Kerry McCorckle, who then shared the Skittles™ that he found in the pot with his Irish brethren, leading to the slogan “Taste the Rainbow”. (McCorckle, though widely celebrated for this discovery, was later charged with tampering the original rainbow-based product and distributing a product of lesser quality to those outside of his Irish homeland. He is also credited with inventing the slogan “Fuck the English”.)

Our first clue into the veracity of this colorful origin story of cheese comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, wherein he records the whimsical adventures of the young goddess and celebrated hunter Diana, who, in the heat of a chase, happened quite accidentally upon a trailing rainbow. Diana followed the flourishing trail down to a beautiful urn (not quite the usual “pot” that marks the end of a rainbow, but then, she was in Greece, after all) that contained hundreds of little blocks of goat cheese, brie, blue cheese, emmenthaler, cheddar, and all manner of other varieties, all neatly wrapped in fig leaves. Ovid’s story details how the young goddess, bored with the cheese (for it is well known that deities subsist purely off of nectar), left it in the woods and resumed her hunt. Later, a satyr happened upon this mysterious urn and brought it to his patron deity, Dionysus. Upon discovering that this wonderful product paired perfectly with the god’s chosen beverage, wine, Dionysus ordered his satyrs to distribute the cheese to his human worshipers as a boon for their dedication.

Ovid’s story, however, is just a beginning. The origins of the Turkish word for cheese bear remarkable similarities to the word “colors”, indicating an etymological link between the two. The Greeks make mention of this discovery in much of their mythology –  Homer references “that gift of rainbows, that boon of Dionysus” in conjunction with a soft and delicious (though unnamed) substance oft enjoyed by Agamemnon and his generals. Bears who seek out pots of honey in the woods have, on very rare occasion, been known to report finding cheese, rather than honey, in their pots. And of course there are the many unverified accounts by those leprechauns who have been unlucky enough to have been caught, who claim that the father of all leprechauns (whose name they refuse, on all accounts, to speak) first crafted the delicious substance in a freak accident by accidentally dropping fairy dust in his brimming whiskey glass on Midsummer’s eve. These leprechauns cackle with appreciation at the memory of the great father’s eyebrows and enormous red beard catching fire at the resulting explosion, but murmur with almost religious fervor at how unparalleled was the cheese that resulted.

And there you have it, my friends! The evidence points quite in two different directions. Even sources within the same cultures disagree! I can make neither head nor tails of it, and it is up to you, my fellow citizen scientists, to help me determine which is the more likely origin of this most perfect, divine, heavenly cheese, whose presence in our lives has forever and always been a gift of the highest order. I leave it to you now to continue the work where I have left off. Help me to answer this most critical of questions, that we may better understand ourselves as a species and contribute to the knowledge and enlightenment of man!

With joyful heart and ecstatic mind,


*Though this is a satirical post, and all quotes, including this one, are invented, the company “Unicorn Cheese” really exists. Google that shit.