Cheese propaganda

With rationing introduced early in 1940 in Britain, this public information film was created to advocate the advantages of eating cheese over meat. The film explains not only the health benefits of cheese with some (unverified) experiments, but also its versatility in cooking, from grilled cheese to cauliflower cheese, "a meal in itself." Film curator Matt Lee introduces us to this brilliant cheese propaganda.

Sunday dinner. A fine old English institution which always brings to mind the family sitting round the table, the centre of attraction being a fine juicy roast.

We all enjoy this kind of dinner. Father enjoys it, and the kids enjoy it, but nowadays big joints are hard to come by but this need not worry us, for beef is not the only valuable food which the cow gives us.

A small piece of cheese weighing five ounces has been proved by experts to give as much nourishment as a much larger and more expensive piece of meat weighing...10 ounces.

Matt Lee: "My name's Matt Lee from the Imperial War Museum and I'm going to talk to you today about one of my favourite films in the collection, Choose Cheese. This film, directed by the hugely talented Ruby Grierson was filmed in 1940 and released soon after in cinemas."

These cyclists have cycled 60 miles since they left home they've had nothing to eat since breakfast. They've had an energetic morning. They will have to cycle at least 60 more miles before they're home again tonight. But here in this country pub they will find all the nourishment they need in a good spread of bread and cheese.

ML: "So this film would have been screened to audiences before the main feature, because most people got their news from the cinema so the government created short films under the Ministry of Information and they were then distributed to cinemas across the country.

This is Charlie Cooper. He eats cheese too, and he's one of the people who needs good food, because he has heavy work to do day in and day out. He works on a farm. He was up at half past four this morning to do the milking. These sacks weigh a couple of hundred weight each. Work like this uses up a lot of energy but he finds cheese ample to keep him going through the day. Cheese is just as good food for brain workers as for heavy manual workers. Bernard Shaw is 84 years old and he is still England's leading playwright. He eats no meat and has always eaten cheese.

ML: "It's really quite clever in that it uses a kind of pseudo scientific statistical approach to try and convince the audience of the merits of cheese and how it can be cooked. So you get options of grilling cheese, which apparently are very popular in the north of England, and how you can make kedgeree, how you can make cauliflower cheese."

Cauliflower served in this way is a meal in itself.

ML: "So it really is an early kind of you know reality cooking show as well and it's quite clever in that is manages to do this in various different ways."

In a school in the East End of London, a number of boys and girls of the same health and physical development were chosen. They were divided into two groups. One group was fed on an ordinary English meal of meat and two vegetables. The other on a daily meal of cheese, milk butter, green salad and wholemeal bread. 

At the end of a year the two groups were compared and it was found that for every inch the meat-eating group had grown, the cheese eating group had grown an inch and a quarter. For every ten pounds that the meat-eating group had gained in weight the cheese eating group had gained 12 pounds. So when you are unable to give your family the roast and two veg they've got so used to remember that there are many attractive cheese dishes to choose from and you can see from these children that far from the being a loss of health there is an actual gain.

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