The young woman in the picture is my beautiful and talented daughter, Mae Martin. She is a comedian, currently pursuing her career in England and here in Canada – back and forth. Tonight, she’s appearing on a television show called Global Comedians – on Global TV at 10:00pm – also starring one of her childhood idols, Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall.
Other than a natural desire to brag about her, I mention Mae here because she has inherited my interest in cheese. Indeed, in one area at least, she has surpassed it. For the last year or so, Mae has been using cheese to influence her dreams. It started (as so much good science does) with an empirical observation, namely that her dreams were particularly lucid and memorable when cheese had featured in her evening meal. Since then she has taken it several steps further. As she wrote to me recently: “I’m not sure where I heard that cheese before bed gives you vivid dreams, maybe in a Wallace and Grommit film, but this year I began experimenting with different types and amounts of cheese. I tried Wensleydale and Cheddar but have had the most success with eating half a wheel of French Brie, which is very cheap in England, and very creamy. I eat it on crackers and then have extremely lucid dreams ranging from epic survival dreams where I’m escaping the city (there are usually zombies in these ones) or am in haunted hotels, to dreams about befriending celebrities. The goal, of course, is to have a vivid flying dream, where I am zooming around London like Peter Pan, and this has happened once or twice.”
Mae shares my fascination with the idea of controlling astral projection, but cheese-dream manipulation seems to be an easier accomplishment. It could be that one merely sleeps better under the influence of tryptophan (one of the amino acids in cheese), which has been shown to reduce stress and make people drowsy. But I think there’s more to it. Mae’s great grandmother (my grandmother) believed strongly that eating cheese last thing at night “gives you nightmares,” and, remembering her gentle disposition and deeply felt Methodist beliefs, I dare say she would describe a dream of the zombie Armageddon as a “nightmare.” To Mae, it is a psychic adventure to be relished.
Half a wheel is a lot to eat every night. Nevertheless, speaking as a chevalier of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France, I am happy that brie is so effective. As an Englishman, however, I would urge her to see what patriotic visions might be conjured up by Double Gloucester or Caerphilly.
Clearly more work is needed before cheese can be used as a fine-tuned instrument of Inception, but I am tempted to offer myself as a guinea pig. I’d love to know if a melt-in-the-mouth Riopelle de l’Isle would produce vividly colourful abstract visions, or if large bedtime quantities of Brillat-Savarin or (gorgon)Zola would make my reveries more succintly aphoristic or turn them into long, rambling narratives? Might a blue cheese encourage dreams of an erotic nature? And if so what differences could be expected between, say, a morsel of mild, creamy Meredith from Australia and a ripe wedge of Stinking Bishop?
Meanwhile, I read in today’s newspaper that American skier Lindsey Vonn attributes her Olympic gold medal to rubbing a spreadable Austrian commercial cream cheese onto her injured shin in the days leading up to the race.
Humanity is only now beginning to understand cheese’s more subtle virtues. I am proud that my daughter is in the vanguard of this bold exploration.