Today is national cheese day. Who doesn’t love cheese? It’s on or in everything. What would Olive Garden or Pizza Hut be without cheese? Or Salsa Brava or Chipotle? Or a visit to France? Or Switzerland? Wisconsin? Or your favorite cheese burger place? From the finest Neuchateloise Fondue to Cheez-Whiz, the stuff is everywhere. The only food without cheese that I can think of is from Asia, or India (though Amy’s meals has those really yummy Indian meals with chunks of some cheese in with the spinach). Around the Western side of the world, cheese is ubiquitous.
We even mention it when we want to look good for pictures. “Say cheese” is the standard for English-speaking photo shoots to get the teeth to come together just so, and the corners of the mouth to lift in a pleasant position, to suggest one is most pleased about the situation in which one finds oneself. Of course, this is a new-ish kind of convention. None of the pictures you see of Civil War soldiers or Sod Busters have them saying “cheese.”
Some say the practice started in about the 1940s. No one really knows who started it, but one of the earliest references showed up in 1943 in the Big Spring Herald, a western Texas newspaper. It states, “Now here’s something worth knowing. It’s a formula for smiling when you have your picture taken. It comes from former Ambassador Joseph E. Davies and is guaranteed to make you look pleasant no matter what you’re thinking. Mr. Davies disclosed the formula while having his own picture taken on the set of his ‘Mission to Moscow.’ It’s simple. Just say ‘Cheese.’ It’s an automatic smile. I learned that from a politician,” Mr. Davies chuckled. “An astute politician, a very great politician. But, of course, I cannot tell you who he was…” Some suggest it was Roosevelt who gave him the toothy advice. Ol’ FDR certainly knew how to mug for the camera, so that’s a viable possibility.
Whether you’re eating cheese today, or saying “cheese,” remember it’s a day set aside nationally to celebrate the substance. Enjoy it, and consider sprinkling on an extra portion of parmesan, or zapping that ’dog with an extra dollop of the Whiz.
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