April is the cruelest month . . .
Happy 1 April from Berkshire Publishing!
Berkshire Publishing's 2013 April Fool's Day story was written by Karen Christensen.
There is no cheese marketing campaign, but Eliot himself did love cheese and wrote a much-quoted letter about Stilton to the editor of The Times in 1935. He frequently mentioned cheese in letters to friends, something that surprised and charmed Karen when she was working on the Eliot Letters in London in the late 1980s.
Karen worked with his widow, Valerie Eliot, who had married the poet in 1957 after eight years as his secretary at the London publishing house Faber & Faber. Valerie herself was nearly 40 years younger than Eliot and became his literary executor, known for her zeal in protecting the Eliot legacy. (Karen's memoir "Dear Mrs. Eliot" was the cover story of the Guardian's literary Review in January 2005.) She passed away on 8 November 2012. Her death led to much speculation that there would be much greater access to the Eliot papers, and Karen was interviewed about the future of the estate and quoted on this issue in several newspapers, including the New York Times and The Times of London. She said that people were expecting too much in the way of revelations and that they misunderstood what Valerie Eliot's death meant in terms of Eliot's literary legacy. That's what inspired this piece of April tomfoolery, and below are a few notes for those who love literary stories - or fine cheese.
Eliot on cheeses and especially Stilton: http://www.hycadventures.com/page50.php
Eliot on tolerable American cheese: http://cheesepoet.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/of-washed-rinds-and-eliot/
The Dairy Management board of the USDA is real: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/us/07fat.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Chinese cheese exists, and the demand for dairy products is indeed growing in China: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18102880. Here's a story about UK dairy promotion in China: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20270925.
East Coker is not the name of a cheese but the title of one of Eliot's poems The Four Quartets. The other cheeses - Stilton, Wensleydale, Lancashire - are real, and are real places, too. So is East Coker, a village in Somerset, England, where Eliot's ashes were placed after his death in 1965.
Culture is a real magazine about cheese and can be found here: http://www.culturecheesemag.com/.
Eliot's best-known prose book is probably his Notes Towards a Definition of Culture, which was irresistible as a subtitle for our mock cheese journal.
Notes and acknowledgements
At the last minute I stuck in the Ralph Lauren ad - showing Eliot looking very dapper in his bankers suit and hat - after reading that Virginia Woolf had mocked his excessive formality by calling him the man in the four-piece suit.
Thanks to Berkshire Publishing's designer Anna Myers for once again creating the artwork to substantiate my text.
I'm fortunate, too, that Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Berkshire Publishing is based, is home to an amazing cheese shop, Rubiner's, which provides me with cheese that Eliot would have enjoyed. A recent example is a cheese called Stitchelton (pictured here), the first raw-milk Stilton-type "farmstead" cheese to be made in Britain since World War II.
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