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Cheese is murder

Routine rooted in weekly public-television consumption brings calm and deadly blue cheese.

Routine rooted in weekly public-television consumption brings calm and deadly blue cheese.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

In a world of streaming television, the idea of watching one particular show at one particular time is a concept as aged as a crunchy chunk of cheddar.

But each Thursday I find strange comfort in settling in to watch Midsomer Murders on PBS Wisconsin (even though I could watch it any time on Acorn TV). In a world swirling down the toilet and a TV/streaming landscape full of true crime and grisly murder series, there’s just something so absurdly quaint about deaths at a flower show, in an amateur dramatic society production, or among rival bird-watchers.

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Recently, though, the Midsomer crew outdid themselves. It was death by cheese. It was perfectly ridiculous and ridiculously perfect to watch it on PBS Wisconsin right after an episode of Wisconsin Foodie. Somehow, watching the woman who was Hugh Grant’s assistant/paramour in Love Actually get whacked to death with a giant wheel of famous award-winning blue cheese kind of fit right into that Thursday night lineup.

It does make you wonder if, under the sheen of all the camaraderie and (pre-pandemic) happiness among Wisconsin cheesemakers, there is actually terrible resentment that will one day culminate in a brutal cave murder. And what kind of spin would the marketing behemoth Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin put on that? (“We’re passionate about our cheese!”)

If you aren’t familiar with Midsomer, it’s pretty standard stuff. A couple of detectives in the bucolic English countryside solve three or four murders each week. Eccentric locals are suspects or suspicious. They declare their innocence, such as this episode’s oddball defending himself with a plea of “I just want to make cheese!” Because the show has been on longer than Tony Hook has been aging his 20-year cheddar, there have been enough murders to wipe out a town the size of, say, La Valle in Sauk County, which would be bad since La Valle is where Carr Valley Cheese is made.

How would this crime unfurl in Wisconsin? To be honest, of the five murders in this episode, only one used the cheese itself as a weapon. The other slayings were strangulation by cheese wire, stabbing with a cheese needle (a device with a non-murderous task of pulling out a tiny bit of cheese to taste), and two friends stomped to death by a herd of Ayrshires. So yeah, it could happen.

The cheesy murder weapon? To be honest, blue cheese is certainly strong but it doesn’t seem tough enough for this task. Not in a state where we have 180-pound wheels of Swiss Emmentaler, 40-pound blocks of cheddar, and gorgeous 18-pound rounds of Gouda. Heck, when Sarah “The Cheese Lady” Kaufmann carves sculptures made of cheddar, she sometimes starts with a 500-pound block made in Kiel. Those could all do some serious damage. Not to mention you could spread a few fresh, slimy, slippery curds on the top of a staircase—and we all know what happens on TV shows and in movies when there is a staircase involved.

Of course, none of this is meant to cast murderous aspersions on the many fine cheesemakers of this state. If anything, it offers a few ideas for maybe a mystery book or TV series for someone to take and run with. After all, it’s no more ridiculous than what actually happened the day the cheese murder episode ran—that fishy business with the sturgeon caviar scheme.

Someone really should get on that one, too.

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