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In praise of - really old cheese.

I WRITE as a convert to cheese.

Yup, aged 55 (me not the cheese), finally I started eating it. All my life hitherto I have pooh-poohed it.

Perhaps that was due to some traumatic event in childhood, mistaking the bitter, adult pabulum for cake. But I may also have been exposed to really cheesy cheese: stuff that pongs offensively. At the time of going to press, I'm still wimping about with mild stuff that tastes like butter or is mixed with cranberries and similar soft fruits. But, on the whole, I'm happy to have a new vice.

If you Google "health benefits of cheese", the news isn't good once you get past calcium. Too much turns you into a bloater. But it's the whey to go for me. One thing I miss about whisky and wine is sampling specimens from different provenances. Now I can do that with cheese. A whole supermarket aisle, one I hadn't even noticed before, beckons me in to shiver with delight before its fridges.

Intelligence reached me this week that cheese doings have been discovered on 7500-year-old pottery from Poland. When I say "doings" I mean milk extracts on ancient strainers, and when I say "pottery" I mean the only stuff they ever find on archaeological digs. Just imagine the excitement: "I've found something!" Then the disappointment: "Aw jeez, just more pottery."

But the Neolithic news is that cheese is right old. And it makes us think: "Who had the idea of making cheese?"

Expert guesses suggest the discovery was accidental and could have come from storing milk in animal stomachs for transportation.

The more we learn about the universe the more it seems to be one big accident. Bit worrying really. But at least now I can console myself with a slice of Wensleydale.

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