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Big Block of Cheese Day

October 20th has been designated as "Big Block of Cheese Day". It is so named from an episode of the tv show "The West Wing", called "The Crackpots and These Women" in which the President's Chief of Staff designates one day a year as a day in which White House Staff meet with fringe special interest groups whose causes might not otherwise get an audience at that level. According to fictional chief of staff Leo McGarry, the day is so from a legend involving Andrew Jackson. The rationale for the day, as explained by Leo McGarry is that Andrew Jackson, had a two-ton block of cheese in the White House foyer from which everyone was welcome to eat. This symbolized the openness of the White House to the American people.

History records that the first "big block of cheese" was actually presented to Thomas Jefferson. The Cheshire Mammoth Cheese was a gift to Jefferson from the town of Cheshire, Massachusetts. It was presented to Jefferson on January 1, 1802 by John Leland. Leland said that he considered the cheese an act of "profound respect...to the popular ratification of his election." This incident is reported in the book Real Life at the White House by John Whitcomb.

In 1837, President Andrew Jackson's supporters commissioned a similar cheese for him. Jackson's "big block of cheese" weighed 1400 pounds. After two years of aging the cheese, Jackson held a public "cheese tasting". The event was heavily attended, and the cheese was consumed in two hours.

Besides inspiring the recurring theme for the West Wing, this event also inspired a critically acclaimed work of fiction, The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman, written in 2004 and published by the Grove Press. It tells the story about a small town cheesemaker convinced by her pastor to make a giant cheese for the President-elect. The cheese also became the subject of a children's picture book published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, called A Big Cheese for the White House by Candace Fleming.

For real fanatics, shirts and other gear commemorating Big Block of Cheese Day is available here from Cafe Press.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2010 09:30 am (UTC)
And a wheat thin the size of Lake Tahoe...?
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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