It’s Inauguration Day in the United States.
Some of the days on which president have been sworn into office have been memorable.
Others have been pretty quiet.
But one of the presidents’ first days in office was kind of cheesy, and I don’t mean full of cliches or overly sentimental.
I mean it was literally cheesy. And not on purpose.
It was March 4, 1837, the day Martin Van Buren became the eighth president.
His predecessor, Andrew Jackson, had come into office eight years earlier with an inauguration that some news reports characterized as chaos.
Supposedly a raucous crowd got drunk and smashed stuff at the White House until the staff moved the whiskey outside.
That’s probably overstating what happened by a lot, but the final days of his term did become a spectacle of a kind.
In 1835, New York dairy farmer Thomas Meacham had sent Jackson a 1,400 pound cheddar cheese, covering his enormous creation in bunting and representations of each American state, plus Jackson’s famous statement: “Our Federal Union, it must be preserved.”
“Preserved” being the key word, because Jackson basically let the cheese age at the White House.
He didn’t serve it until a public reception in the final days of his presidency, ten days before Van Buren’s term began.
The people who came to eat made a mess.
It got on the floor, in the drapes, on the furniture, all over.
As one reporter wrote, “The air was redolent with cheese, the carpet was slippery with cheese, and nothing else was talked about at Washington that day.”
The news reports about Van Buren’s inauguration don’t make direct mention of the cheddary remnants of Jackson’s cheese party, but it’s said that the aroma of cheese continued to fill the White House for a long time.
So on his first day as president, a job he’d wanted for his entire career, Martin Van Buren had to walk back inside a White House that smelled like very ripe cheddar cheese.
Hopefully he didn’t mind too much.
Appropriately enough, today is also National Cheese Lover’s Day.
Though it should be said that cheese is such a powerful force in our world and our culture that we actually have multiple days to celebrate it.
National Day Calendar dot com points to more than a dozen of them, from Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on April 12, all the way to Moldy Cheese Day October 9.
Was the White House Really Trashed at Andrew Jackson’s First Inauguration? (HowStuffWorks)
The Real Story of the Huge Chunk of Cheese That Sat in the White House for a Year (Food and Wine)
NATIONAL CHEESE LOVER’S DAY – January 20 (National Day Calendar)