Tuesday 6 December 2022

"Government cheddar" and the INGSOC tyranny of cheese

Yum Yum!

Having spent most of my childhood just a few miles from Cheddar in Somerset, from which that type of cheese originated; I was until recently unaware of one of the most crass instances of Big Government socialism I have encountered. 

During World War II, the heavy boot of central government control descended onto the neck of UK farming and food production - from whence it has never been lifted. 

And one of the first actions of this command economy socialism was to wipe-out many hundreds of historical and locally varieties of distinctive local cheeses; and force all milk producers to supply a handful of factories making a single uniform type which people called Government Cheddar. 

The excuse for such inefficient and unproductive tyranny was 'fair rationing' - and this maintained the practice for about nine years even after the war had ended! (And would probably still be enforced on the masses, if not on the rulers, had the socialist government had its way.) 

But, after such wholesale annihilation of centuries of tradition; it took several decades before British cheeses revived and recovered to anything like the current level - when there are probably many hundreds to choose from, from almost every region of the country.  

The story reminds me of why George Orwell got the idea of 1984 - not so much from the Soviet Union - as from the UK wartime government; with its tendency to impose drab, moralistic, oppressive controls on the populace - under cover of 'fairness' or 'the public good'.

There has long been a significant slice of the British people who are eager for such restrictive policies, and plenty of mini-tyrants keen to oblige them; as we have more recently seen with birdemic lockdown/ distancing/ masking/ pecking program, fake-justified by 'health'; and the ongoing program of tedious economic destruction, fake-justified by 'preventing climate change. 

Luckily, there are other Brits (mostly English, and middling sorts of people - especially the self-employed) with a more independent and sensible traditional attitude; who will push-back in whatever ways they can. 

It is to these people - certainly not to our rulers or their lackeys among the intellectual class! - to whom we owe such wholesome pleasures, freedom and dignity as yet remain to us. 


a_probst said...

Think what they might have done to Wisconsin!

When I looked at the spread in your photo illustration, I immediately visualized a bare, scuffed table, an undecorated and cracked bowl, and the woman's arms sleeved with dark denim and bereft of a watch. And her hands knobby and calloused.

Sasha Melnik said...

I might add that this episode was especially sad as appropriately aged cheddar is the King of Cheeses. Extremely tasty and yet also highly versatile - a rare combination.

It took Britain around 40 years to recover from rationing.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Sasha - Oh yes, I love good cheddar and eat it every day - by choice. We did get some in the village where I lived as a child, direct from Cheddar farmhouses - strong stuff!

I agree with your 40 years thing. The problem was not rationing as such, which was necessary - up to a point - but the totalitarian communist spirit that lay behind it.

England actually introduced new rationing After the war - for example potatoes were rationed only post-war (so during the war you could fill-up on them).

When my father did national service in Germany from 1949, by then the Germans in his region had more and better food than the British (although they had very harsh rationing during the war, including standard national bread that included grass). Almost everyone did - although the House of Commons catering was not impaired...

The reason was the usual problem with socialism, and price controls - reducing production. Almost instantly after rationing was abolished, there was plenty of food. But the variety and quality were lastingly impaired.

My primary school dinners - during the 1960s - were indescribably bad in quality; to the point that people can't really believe it - e.g. serving a high proportion of gristle (i.e. bone ends) in 'stews', as well as a little bit of chewy meat. More often than not we were served (and this is for 5-11 year olds) offal: i.e. kidney, liver, tongue, heart; presumably because they were cheap. And I lived in a prosperous 'commuter village'/ farming community - where there was literally zero poverty, and quite a few wealthy folks.

As well as having bad ingredients and being badly cooked - the meals were cooked about 5 hours before we ate them; being kept warm all this time, while being transported about 20 miles right-across from the other side of the city of Bristol and seven miles into rural Somerset.

Bizarre! But it was what the Brits had become accustomed-to from about 15 years of rationing.

Ranger said...

Offal (properly prepared) is tasty, healthful and cheap. But I can only imagine how awfully prepared it was for government schools. Probably traumatized generations of kids.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ranger - In theory I have nothing against offal.

In practice, and no matter how ell prepared; the sight and smell (let alone taste) makes me feel nauseous - and I avoid it at all costs!

Ranger said...

Hence my comment on traumatized school kids...

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ranger. Maybe! But in fact I think it was because I was not served offal at home (because my Dad didn't like it either) at a sufficiently early age. Our major dietary preferences tend to be set in the first few years of life - although we can usually overcome them, with practice; as I overcame my (strong!) aversion for blue cheeses in the late twenties; because Stilton was served frequently at my college in Durham University.