Let's use capitalization to clarify: there is cheddar and there is Cheddar. The first, cheddar, is the hideous soapy
plastic muck that you buy very cheap in supermarket
s all over the world, and which is made in the country where it's bought. Its only known use is for melting, in student household
s, and possibly to keep penurious
old ladies from dying of protein
deprivation. This cheddar is not food, it is a thing to put in your stomach to dull the need for food
Then there is Cheddar, the exquisitely delicious rich hard cheese, slightly veined with mould, made in the farms about the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, and traditionally matured in the caves, where the temperature is a constant 7°C. A good farmhouse Cheddar is one of the best of all cheeses. I have seriously wondered the mould is mildly hallucinogenic or more accurately euphoria-genic, whatever the correct word for that is.
Cheddar has been esteemed for almost a thousand years. A Pipe Roll of Henry II records the purchase of 10 240 lb at a farthing a pound. The king called it the best cheese in England. In the reign of Charles I the entire supply was bought by the royal court before it was made.
The village of Cheddar is at one end of the Cheddar Gorge, a spectacular area in the Mendip Hills, famous for its cave system, one of the tourist highlights of that part of Britain.
One of the caves, Gough's Cave, contains an underground river called the Cheddar Yeo. Not only were the caves inhabited for 40 000 years, but a burial dating from 9 000 years ago had its skeleton ("Cheddar Man", discovered in 1903) so well preserved that DNA could be extracted, and compared with modern locals. Cheddar Man has close relatives living in the Cheddar area to this day.