Magazine Sneak Peek: Praise Cheeses! 4 Holy Women Transformed By the Dairy

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A few weeks ago, David Clark penned a bunch of great posts for us all about cheese. His topics covered everything from a maggot-infested delicacy outlawed in Italy to the enormous cheeses wheeled to the White House in honor of a new president. We liked his writing so much, that we asked him to write for the new issue. Here's an excerpt where he discusses Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and how the delicious dairy affected her life:

Across the ocean in the 1650s, a little Mexican girl named Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was struggling with a different problem: she loved eating cheese, but chose to give it up. The superstitions of the time claimed that cheese made people slow and stupid. As an aspiring scholar, little Juana made a tough decision to renounce the delicious dairy, proving that her "desire to know was stronger than the desire to eat." Unencumbered by butterfat and lactose, her intellect flourished. By the time she was eight years old, Juana had taught herself to read Plato, Aristophanes, and Erasmus in Latin. At age 13, her father paraded her around the Spanish courts as a child prodigy. She wrote volumes of prose and poetry, from religious verse to scientific treatises, and earned the moniker "The Tenth Muse." And though she had many suitors, Juana took the veil at age 18, giving up men in addition to her favorite food.

Today, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is revered as the first female theologian of the Americas and as a proto-feminist. Although she never regretted the sacrifices that she made for her studies, a certain longing always remained in Sor Juana. As an old woman, she wrote, "I envy those who say that the urge to study has cost them nothing," and perhaps heaving a sigh for the lost cheese of her youth, she added, "The desire to know has cost me dearly."

The other tales are equally fascinating, from a nun who received visions after forcing herself to ingest cheese to a woman whose luck changed when she bit into a grilled sandwich.

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February 21, 2009 - 9:30am
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