Sunday, September 27, 2009
THE FALL OF CHEESE
I was following one of my other mild obesesions, Mark E. Smith of the Fall, and I came across the following quotation from the great man, “Blue cheese contains natural amphetamines. Why are students not informed about this?”
I guess he thinks they should be told so they can run out and buy a couple of pounds of Gorgonzola, although frankly I’d have thought good blue cheese was more expensive than most amphetamines. Admittedly this isn’t really my area.
Obviously Mark E. Smith is a fine character and he certainly knows his way around pharmaceuticals, but I was still wasn’t convinced that there’s speed in blue cheese. A bit of research was required.
Smith is not alone in his belief. In fact, according Dr Neil Barnard author of Breaking the Food Seduction, “Cheese holds … drug-like compounds … It contains an amphetamine-like chemical called phenylethylamine, or PEA, which is also found in chocolate and sausage.” (The spelling is more usually phenethylamine, apparently.)
That seems to be saying it occurs in all cheese, not just the blue varieties.
And further research does indeed leave little doubt that phenethylamine-like chemicals do indeed occur in cheese, and phenethylamine is part of the same happy family as methamphetamine and MDMA (aka Ecstasy). There are plenty of sources online that will sell you the stuff as a diet aid.
Other sources say that phenethylamine is usually inactive when it’s taken orally because the body quickly breaks it down, and significant amounts never reach the brain.
So, eating huge quantities of blue cheese, it turns out, is unlikely to speed up your metabolism and give you that lean hungry, meth-head look, but I suppose we might have guessed that.
The best food story about Mark E. Smith appears in Stuart Maconie’s book “Cider With Roadies.” Maconie is in Smith’s flat after a boozy night out and Smith asks if he wants something to eat and Maconie says sure, so Smith goes into the kitchen and bangs around for twenty minutes or so and then comes out carrying two plates of potato crisp sandwiches (that’s potato chips in American parlance).
And because Smith is a good host, he asks Maconie, “Do you want a pickled onion with that?” I know I would have.