Joys of Modern Life

8. CHEESTRINGS
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The Independent Culture
Cheestrings. Beautiful things to eat. Beautiful, peelable, addictive, irresistible, scrumptious, faintly cheesey, stringy things which may or may not be made from two parts latex and one part rubber bands. Frankly, I don't really want to know.

Anyway, pop it from its pack, and out it shoots, like a rubbery, vivid orange sausage which, should it hit the floor, will bounce in a most delightful way. Of course, you may have developed your own technique for eating them, but for myself I think the best way is to start at the top, catching a teeny bit between thumb and forefinger, then pulling down in as steady a fashion as you can manage. Sometimes you will get a satisfyingly big string. Sometimes you will get a teeny little string, like a bit of sewing thread. You never quite know what you're going to get.

It's a brilliantly exciting, unpredictable food. In its stringiness, it's rather like celery but with none of the disadvantages of celery - ie, tasting horrid and not being especially worth the effort and making a terrible noise, such that you are not allowed to do it in front of Animal Hospital.

Cheestrings are blissfully quiet, all told. You can even do them during football on the telly and not get told off. You can do them secretly and not get found out. "Who ate the last Cheestring?" "Not me!"

I don't remember how we first came across Cheestrings, an invention so clever that whoever thought of it left out the middle "e" in his or her excitement. Perhaps our young son saw one in someone else's lunch box and started up a campaign. However, I don't think this is likely, as I refuse to give in to children's campaigns until I can't be bothered any more, and then do.

Alternatively, I may have just seen them in Tesco and thought: "Those look spectacularly vivid and rubbery. I'll take 72." Whatever, in terms of cheese snacks, the Golden Vale Cheestring is a vast improvement on, say, the Dairylea Cheese Dipper, which comes with a bread stick and a little section of cheese spread, but must be tackled gently, otherwise the bread stick snaps in the cheese spread and you have to shove in a finger in to retrieve it, which isn't especially hygienic, considering where my hands have usually been.

OK, Cheestrings don't taste of much, frankly. Indeed, I note with interest the list of contents. MEDIUM FAT HARD CHEESE WITH ADDED INGREDIENTS: CHEESE FLAVOURING, COLOUR (ANATTO).

If it is made of cheese, why the flavouring?And if there is flavouring, why doesn't it actually flavour the thing? This is partly the charm of the Cheestring, I think. It's just not as straightforward as you initially think. Plus, of course, it's not the flavour that sells it. It's the texture. It's the satisfaction of having something like a bouncy dental floss ricocheting between your teeth. I'm not sure how it's given this texture and, as I said before, don't especially want to know. As for the anatto, it wouldn't be so orange without it and, let's face it, if it wasn't so orange, I just wouldn't like it so much. I am not into "natural" foods which, it seems to me, always involve something appalling, like preparation and having to chop things.

Of course, I have saved the best for last. The really great thing about Cheestrings is that they are both food and entertainment. How many strings can you peel off from just the one Cheestring? In our house, the record is 82 in 40 minutes, which shows what an exciting family life we have. OK, kids, we can go to the Science Museum this afternoon, or to the cinema, or bowling or, alternatively, we can just sit here and see how many strings we can get from a Cheestring.

Sit here and see how many strings we can get from a Cheestring? And not go anywhere at all?

That's such a lazy, decadent, rubbish idea. I'm entirely up for it, of course.

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