PEW!: The Stinky And Legen-dairy Gift from Colonel Thomas S. Meacham

PEW!: The Stinky And Legen-dairy Gift from Colonel Thomas S. Meacham
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Release Date
March 15, 2023
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In 1835, Colonel Thomas S. Meacham wanted to give the president of the United States a present that celebrated the achievements of his upstate New York farming community. Believing that big is always better, he decided a colossal, legen-dairy gift was in order: a wheel of cheese measuring four feet in diameter, two feet thick, and weighing 1,400 pounds. Transporting the cheese to Washington D.C. was another big undertaking. It traveled by wagon and by ship, before being delivered to the White House on New Year's Day in 1836. But with a big cheese comes a big smell, and after a year the president had a stinky situation on his hands. How can he get rid of this cheesy gift? Readers of all ages will enjoy this slice of American history. Back matter includes science facts on cheese making.

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Andrew Jackson Au Gratin
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Ever want to know how to make cheese? This historical nonfiction title not only talks about how Colonel Thomas Meacham gifted a 1,400 pound wheel of cheese to the president in 1836, and the resultant problems with storing that much unrefrigerated cheese, but goes into great detail about how to make cheese. Once I find some rennet, I might be whipping one up in my kitchen!

The president in question is unnamed throughout the book, but was Andrew Jackson. Knowing this actually would have been good, since it provides some context. While vilified later in history for his slave ownership and questionable personal habits, Jackson was well beloved for being a self-made man and a representative of common people. He is still on the twenty dollar bill, so he must have enjoyed popularity at some point in time.

Meacham's desire to promote himself and his community by manufacturing such a large cheese and delivering it with great fan fare makes a little more sense when you think about Jackson's relationship with the public. How many people would normally have been invited into the White House for a cheese snack, no matter what the occasion? Of course, that's a lot of cheese, and even with a great deal of salt, there will be some odiferous changes in that amount of milk product. I loved the small comment that there were OTHER cheeses delivered as well, as gifts for dignitaries who left them behind.

Good Points
It seems odd to the modern mindset that the cheese was left for an entire year and THEN offered to the public, and I have so many more questions: where did they store the cheese? How was it wrapped? Was there a problem with vermin? Did anyone get sick? This offers up a whole range of possibilities for young readers to explore, after, of course, they construct a cheese wheel frame and prepare their own experiment.

This intriguing story would be a good companion forCobb's Science Experiments You Can Eat, and deserves a place among books about food history like Renaud's Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament, Martin's Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild and Stanley's Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution. As much as young children like to eat cheese, you would think there would be more picture books about it, but Jory Johns' humorous The Big Cheese is the only one that comes to mind!
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