Cravings wrought by rat cheese

Published 9:34 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

Standing in the line at the grocery store, I started to salivate at the mere sight of the red-rind cheese in the buggy in front of me. But, that wedge of old-fashioned “rat” cheese carried a six-dollar price tag plus 10 percent plus tax. For a wedge of cheese? Highway robbery!

When I was a little girl, we only had one automobile so my aunt and grandmother would come and get us to go visit them in Eufaula.  Riding squashed in a car between old ladies was not a pleasant way to travel. So, by the time we got all the way from Brundidge to Clio, we were a quarrelsome bunch.

Aunt Eleanor would stop at this little country store and treat us to an R.C. Cola, rat cheese, crackers and a dill pickle. We’d sit out under a big oak tree or huddle around the pot-bellied stove and enjoy a feast fit for a king.

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Since then, I’ve been addicted to dill pickles and rat cheese but, in today’s world, it would take a king’s ransom to purchase a wedge of rat cheese. Even though I stand drooling in want, I just can’t justify spending six dollars for rat cheese when there are starving people all over the world.

In my childhood, wood rat traps were as common as the cold. The traps were baited with rat cheese or in today’s vernacular, red-rind or hoop cheese.

Rat cheese was high on the food chain for field mice but wharf rats—or “woof” rats as young’uns called them – preferred fine dining. Once a woof rat ate an entire angel food cake and a sack of sweet potatoes at one outing at my granddaddy’s house. 

Woof rats were bigger than a house cat and two of them could hold you down while another ate the ears off your head. At least, that’s what Pop said. And given what one had done to five-pounds of sweet potatoes, I had little doubt.

But, any doubt was removed, when Dora pulled the covers up around her neck on a cold, winter’s night and left her feet sticking out. A woof rat spied her big toe and took a big bite out of it.

So much of my young life was lived in fear of woof rats. But then came the Orkin man with blocks of green rat poison and ran the rats away and the wood rat trap company went out of business and rat cheese was upgraded to red-rind and hoop and I’m salivating to no avail.