The Ingersoll Cheese Museum will inspire you to new poetic heights.
In Oxford County, Ontario, all roads on the cheese trail lead to Ingersoll. The cheese trail isn't just my personal list of delicious spots, it's an actual real thing that anyone can experience! Restaurants, food producers, farms, inns, and gift shops all come together to honor the area's heritage as one of Canada's leading diary and cheese producers.
Of course, to REALLY appreciate the awesomeness that is Oxford County cheese, you have to do more than sample it (or, in my case, inhale it). You have to follow the cheese trail all the way back to the beginning and pay a visit to the Ingersoll Cheese Museum.
The Ingersoll Cheese Museum is a replica of a 19th century cheese factory. Local dairy production in Oxford County was so abundant that cheese factories, many set up as community cooperatives, dotted the landscape. Some were but just a few miles apart, such was the demand from local farmers.
Just how much cheese was produced in Oxford County? Well, in 1866 a wheel of cheddar weighing more than 7,300 lbs was produced by the James Harris Cheese Company in conjunction with three local cheese factories, like the kind represented by the Ingersoll Cheese Museum. Created as part of a promotional campaign to market Oxford cheddar to England, the famous mammoth cheese went on a world tour. The tour was a smash success (though perhaps not for the gigantic cheese, which was festering with ripeness by the time it reached England) and it solidified the region's place as a global cheese leader.
If the idea of a gigantic, 7,300 lb wheel of cheese is apt to make you swoon and break into verse, you aren't the only one. A certain James McIntyre, well known to Oxford County residents for his oratorical skills, wrote a poem inspired by the occasion entitled "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds".
Now, as a writer, I'm somewhat opposed to criticizing other artists of the written word but there seems to be ample evidence to support the claim that The Chaucer of Cheese was Canada's worst poet and "Ode to the Mammoth Cheese" its worst poem. I'll be merciful and share just the first few opening words....
We have seen thee, Queen of Cheese,
Lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze;
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.
If McIntyre has inspired you, you'll be pleased to know that Ingersoll has an annual poetry competition, including a category just for cheese related poems! But if you're a little more reticent with regards to your cheese related emotions, the Cheese Museum will still understand. The Cheese Museum will be there for you! It will walk you through over a century of cheese production, letting you appreciate your favourite food like never before. It won't be long before some inspired verses emerge!
Farming and dairy production has been at the heart of Oxford County for centuries and, while there might not be a cheese factory every few miles today, cheese is still as important to communities like Ingersoll as ever before. You can see the influence of this fine food throughout every industry in town - museums and poetry alike - and the Ingersoll Cheese Museum is the perfect place to commence your own cheese trail experience.
Do you have a favourite food that has inspired your travels?
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Our visit to the Ingersoll Cheese Museum was facilitated in part by Oxford County Tourism and we thank them for their support.