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Old 05-23-2020, 04:23 PM
Acsenray is offline
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What did "two cream cheeses" mean in the Napoleonic era? (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell)


I'm reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

At one point, Vinculus has gained access to Norrell's house and it is reported that he has eaten "three meat pies" and "two cream cheeses."

In this context, what might be meant by "a cream cheese"? I know of cream cheese as a paste-like substance that doesn't have any standard quantitative size.

Could it be possible that they mean something like a whole cream cheese cake? Or something like that?
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Old 05-23-2020, 05:11 PM
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A cheese with a high fat content like brie or camembert and a blue cheese/stilton? Those are/were commonly served as endings to a good meal with a glass of port in England in the past.
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Old 05-23-2020, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by aruvqan View Post
A cheese with a high fat content like brie or camembert and a blue cheese/stilton? Those are/were commonly served as endings to a good meal with a glass of port in England in the past.
I kind of feel like they would have either said something more specific—say something like "a roundel of brie and a block of Stilton"—or something more general—such as "two entire rounds of cheese."

I am not familiar with the use of "cream cheese" as a category that would encompass brie and Stilton, and would also encompass the notion of a specific unit of size. But maybe they did in the early 1800s? Does anyone know?
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Last edited by Acsenray; 05-23-2020 at 05:28 PM.
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Old 05-23-2020, 05:30 PM
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Cream cheeses like Brie or Camembert generally have a crust around them. So they kind of do have a standard size and shape in the same way that a meat pie does - that is, you can make it any size you like, but once made it does have a defined size and shape, and you'd think of it as an individual unit, not a mass
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Old 05-23-2020, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
Cream cheeses like Brie or Camembert generally have a crust around them. So they kind of do have a standard size and shape in the same way that a meat pie does - that is, you can make it any size you like, but once made it does have a defined size and shape, and you'd think of it as an individual unit, not a mass
But are (or were) they referred to in ordinary conversation using the category name "cream cheese"? I've never encountered such a usage. Maybe it's known in England?
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Old 05-23-2020, 05:39 PM
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Just looking through its usage in historic Australian newspapers of the early 19th century, people are importing, making or selling cream cheeses as discrete things of unspecified weight or branding. So, in immediate post-Napoleonic War usage two cream cheeses would be two separate units. In my mind they look like supermarket wheels of camembert, but they could just as easily be cubes, oblong or ceramic pots. They would not necessarily have to be different varieties.

A meal involving three pies would be a pretty solid meal, but two cheeses would push it into glutton territory. That's probably more the urpose of the sentence.
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Old 05-23-2020, 07:10 PM
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Just looking through its usage in historic Australian newspapers of the early 19th century, people are importing, making or selling cream cheeses as discrete things of unspecified weight or branding. So, in immediate post-Napoleonic War usage two cream cheeses would be two separate units. In my mind they look like supermarket wheels of camembert, but they could just as easily be cubes, oblong or ceramic pots. They would not necessarily have to be different varieties.
Ah, so, indeed the answer to my question seems to be "yea." In Australia in the early 1800s, and so plausibly also in England , "cream cheese" was used as a name for a category of soft cheese sold in small roundels. So "two cream cheeses" is presumably two entire roundels of soft cheese of some kind, but apparently similar to camembert/brie.

Cool, thanks!
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Old 05-23-2020, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
Ah, so, indeed the answer to my question seems to be "yea." In Australia in the early 1800s, and so plausibly also in England , "cream cheese" was used as a name for a category of soft cheese sold in small roundels. So "two cream cheeses" is presumably two entire roundels of soft cheese of some kind, but apparently similar to camembert/brie.

Cool, thanks!
This book written in 1894 talks about both forms, the cream cheese as we know it (see “first form”), and a more generic, traditional cheese (“second form”), “more strictly cheese-like in texture and flavour,” which is what I’d guess is eaten in the book. But not brie-like it seems.

https://www.google.com/books/edition...sec=frontcover

Last edited by Maserschmidt; 05-23-2020 at 07:35 PM.
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Old 05-23-2020, 09:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
I kind of feel like they would have either said something more specific—say something like "a roundel of brie and a block of Stilton"—or something more general—such as "two entire rounds of cheese."

I am not familiar with the use of "cream cheese" as a category that would encompass brie and Stilton, and would also encompass the notion of a specific unit of size. But maybe they did in the early 1800s? Does anyone know?
Miss Austen would like a word with you (Mansfield Park, 1814):
Quote:
[...] Mrs. Norris, having fidgeted about, and obtained a few pheasants' eggs and a cream cheese from the housekeeper, and made abundance of civil speeches to Mrs. Rushworth, was ready to lead the way. [...]

"There, Fanny, you shall carry that parcel for me; take great care of it: do not let it fall; it is a cream cheese, just like the excellent one we had at dinner. Nothing would satisfy that good old Mrs. Whitaker, but my taking one of the cheeses. [...]"
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