MARIE ROSE, RED LAMBRUSCO & CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON
It's a popular misconception that the archetypal cheese and wine party was initially part of the rich tapestry of 1970's nouvelle cuisine experiences – an option if you didn't fancy wheeling out the hostess trolley, firing up the fondue set or going out for the three course treat that was prawn cocktail, surf'n'turf (maybe chicken in the basket for the less adventurous sorts) and black forest gateau. Today's marvel from yesteryear, however, predates that culinary belle epoque by some one hundred and sixty years – and is proof positive that cheese was part of the fine dining experience back in the Regency period, when men were men and stilton cheese was still exclusively made at The Bell Inn in the Huntingdonshire village (as was) of the same name.
Our bone-handled object of desire, which would have any self-respecting turophile in a positive ferment of ill-concealed glee, is nothing less than a stilton cheese serving scoop, with a simple push mechanism to assist with the deposition of the creamy comestible from your hallmarked silver tool (in itself reminiscent of those little spring-loaded pickled onion forks, another relic of the 1970's). It was made in Birmingham in 1814, at the same time that The Edinburgh Review noted that the (metaphorical) internal organs of a body might be "scooped out as a cheesemonger with his wimble does a bit of Stilton". I mention this as it would have been fantastic had it transpired that a wimble was the correct name for our utensil, but sadly this refers to a wimble gimlet – basically a corkscrew on a shaft with a simple handle, which said cheesemonger would have used to extract a core from his block of cheese for sampling purposes.
Of more pointed relevance, I am duty bound to now reproduce the first recorded appearance of a cheese scoop in literature – extracted from one of Lewis Carroll's Snark-related pieces and attributed to a character known only as "A Lunatic" – ahem:
A voice cried 'cheese scoop' and the great thought of my life flashed upon me !
Placing an ancient Stilton cheese, to represent this venerable quadrangle,
on the end of the chimney piece, I retired to the further end of the room.
Armed only with a cheese-scoop, and with a dauntless courage awaited the word of command.
Charge, cheese-taster, charge !
On, Stilton, On !
With a yell and a bound I crossed the room and plunged my scoop in to the very heart of the foe !
Once more – another yell – another bound – another cavity scooped out !
The deed was done.
Now, I’m not entirely sure what all this is about, but as Mr Carroll is an acknowledged literary genius and I am not, I shall not attempt any further critique of his work; suffice to say that our cheese scoop is hereby irrevocably placed at the epicentre of genuine English eccentricity, and is none the worse for being thusly enshrined – huzzah !