I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have the liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematics and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce, and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.
John Adams to Abigail Adams, [post 12 May 1780]
Adams Family Correspondence, 3:342
John Adams was remarkably prescient. Even the poorest of Americans are beneficiaries of the efforts of previous generations. The Internet, for example, allows most Americans to see and learn about the whole world in a manner that would confound our Founding Fathers.
Yet for all this progress, we have not transcended the study of “Politicks and War.” In this political season, those who see in food a yearning for a life of quality may be reminded of Oscar Wilde’s critique of socialism: “It takes too many evenings.”
Most of us would rather spend time with our children, find joy with family and friends and savor an exquisite Cabernet and incredible Brie than listen to political debates.
But there may be no conflict here. Upon contemplating the world of specialty cheeses, principles appear before us…
Fine cheeses come from all over the world so, as we expand our palates by sampling the best from around the world, cheese teaches us that trade is a force for much good.
The explosion of artisan cheeses in this country teaches us the importance of an environment in which entrepreneurs can triumph. The variety of domestic specialty cheeses shows what a powerful force this can be for helping farmers make a living and for maintaining rural places.
Contemplating the unique flavors of these cheeses helps us transcend our daily experience. It connects us to animals and land, to water and farmers, to methods used for millennia and to people we otherwise would never know.
So if during this political season you munch on some Manchego or reflect with some Roquefort, it may well lead you to a better vote and, if the election is contentious, to invite some friends over to lament or rejoice with a nice cheese plate and an artisan beer.
If cheese teaches us some components of good political choices, it also teaches us that the richness of any individual life is more likely to be found in an intimate gathering of friends than in a raucous gathering of party partisans.