During a summertime visit to the Toronto Black Eagle’s weekly Bears, Beers and Burgers patio barbeque, I was taken aback not by the mounds of man flesh and the accompanying leather accoutrements, but the fact that these bears had the option to order their burgers topped off with blue cheese.
At first I thought the blue cheese add-on option was an inside joke, something the leather daddies could laugh about in between burger bites and beer sips, but then one guy in front of me ordered it and then another guy and then another. As the sweaty hairy guy behind the barbeque placed a small container of blue cheese onto the waiting patties, I looked around for hidden cameras and telltale signs that this whole production was a set up for a special gay Candid Camera or Just for Laughs episode.
I mean, really, who did those harness wearing leather dudes think they’d fool when they ordered that blue cheese?
Apparently, me, as with their every bite I soon realized this was not a television set-up and those guys really did like their blue cheese. A lot.
In retrospect, I think my initial reaction stems from A) my never having see leather daddies eat anything other than ass and B) from my association with blue cheese as a gourmet treat not often found at barbeques. I’d be lying if I didn’t also mention that blue cheese has always been stigmatized with what I’ll refer to as the “quiche effect,” a condition that tends to neuter males associated with it. I should also mention that I love blue cheese — especially with pear — though I don’t think it lessens my masculinity, just other guys’ apparently. Perhaps it’s not the blue cheese that has stunk all these years, just my hypocrisy.
While I had never really thought of a cheese mascot for the bear community up until that faithful barbeque this past summer, I think for most of my life I would have considered it cheddar. I realize now that I have no business judging or imposing cheese mascot choices onto groups. And I realize that blue cheese doesn’t make you gay or less masculine, though perhaps a little stinky.
I’d like to apologize to the leather community for not understanding their potential for cheese versatility. Just because someone likes to wear chaps or have sex in slings or wear giant leather hats that make them look like police officers from post-apocalyptic movies should have no bearing on their cheese choices. And I’d like to apologize to the makers of blue cheese for limiting the market for their most excellent product. Real men do eat blue cheese. And so can all dudes no matter their sexual proclivities. (Well, maybe not the lactose intolerant and the vegans).
I promise to not project my own cultural baggage onto people’s cheese choices in the future. And I look forward to next Summer’s editions of Bears, Beers, Burgers — and Blue Cheese. I can almost taste it already.
Billeh Nickerson also writes about burgers in his latest book McPoems.