The Story of Spain’s Boob-shaped Cheese
There is a walking trail across northern Spain called The Camino de Santiago. (The Camino was recently made famous in a movie starring Martin Sheen titled, The Way). For over a thousand years, pilgrims have walked this holy path in order to gain Grace by visiting the grave of the Apostle James located in the city of Santiago.
Several years ago as we were nearing the end of this pilgrimage, I began to notice as we got about forty miles from the city of Santiago an unusually shaped cheese in many of the village markets. They were unusual because, rather than being round like a wheel or square like a brick, these cheeses were formed in the exact image of a woman’s breast.
The local residents call these creations Queso gallego de Tetilla or, as it translates loosely into English, “boob/breast cheese.” Because I’m interested in these sorts of things (that is, I’m interested in the story behind the breasts—I mean their shapes, not the breasts themselves!) I asked our guide about them. Sure enough, like everything else on the Camino, these, too, had a story.
When a pilgrim their completes the Camino and walks up the grand stairway into the Cathedral of Saint James, they enter into a magnificent portico filled with statues of Biblical heroes. One of the many arrays of statues decorating the walls is a group of four men representing the four Old Testament prophets. Although they appear quite serious in their countenance, full of hellfire and damnation, one of them, the prophet Daniel, quite uncharacteristically is smiling up a storm.
In order to find out why, all you had to do is turn yourself around. There you would see a graphically depicted, bare-chested, Queen Esther in all of her feminine glory. That is, this is what a pilgrim centuries ago was able to see. You don’t, however, see her boobs today! This is because some unnamed archbishop in the fifteenth century felt (no pun intended) the breasts were a little too much for most pious pilgrims to have to bear (pun intended), and so he had them ingloriously chiseled off.
From that time on, the local dairy farmers, furious at what they felt was a desecration of their holy cathedral, and as a sign of solidarity with the
wounded Jewish heroine, began to form their native brand of cheese in the provocative form they exist in to this very day.