For most of my life, I have assumed the line “The cheese stands alone” from the childhood circle song “The Farmer in the Dell” had to do with the type of cheese we were singing about. I have always taken for granted that the cheese in question must have been stinky, like limburger, and therefore had to stay outside the circle.
In case you’re wondering which other cheeses of the world are odiferous, here is a list of the Top Ten stinkiest cheeses, according to one travel blog.
One might also wonder whether chucking the cheese out of the handheld circle is some ancient German form of bullying by exclusion. If so, we need to stop that right now and say something nice to the poor child who has become the cheese, like, “Aw, we didn’t mean it, come on back into the circle, you crazy cheese.”
If you Google “the cheese stands alone meaning,” you will find all sorts of theories posited on sketchy wiki sites. One interpretation has the cheese representing the means of production which surely smells like Marxian economics. Another explains that “the cheese” is slang for “anything good, first-rate in quality, genuine, pleasant or advantageous.”
My favorite pop culture reference to this phrase comes from character Sheldon Cooper of “The Big Bang Theory”: “Because I am without friends. Like the proverbial cheese, I stand alone. Even while seated.”
I’m reading a wonderful book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, and her words are inspiring and teaching me as I write my first book. Her take on the cheese is the following: “The writer is a person who is standing apart, like the cheese in “The Farmer in the Dell” standing there alone but deciding to take a few notes.” So being the cheese, I’ve decided, is about observing the world around me from outside the circle (a phrase I much prefer to the well-worn cliche “outside the box”).
I hope my blog posts here will include pithy observations and some cheesy recipes as well.