"Cheese has always been good to me."
Jim Friteuse

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


As a small boy growing up in the bustling town of Nikkinakkinori, close to the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Jim Friteuse would sit on his father’s knee and listen to long, rambling stories of the older man’s exploits in World War Two. 

Although he had seen some action in that devastating global conflict, George Friteuse never told his son any tales of heroism or derring-do. Nor did he ever tell him about the terrible sights he had witnessed during those dark days, and the only clue Jim had about what his father did was in the form of a battered US Army Pocket Guide issued in 1943 about New Zealand fighting men.

Pages from US Army pocket guide New Zealand 1943
George's memories were strictly not for recollection. Instead he told Jim about the short time he had spent billeted at a holding unit just outside Cairo. He described to his son the majesty of the pyramids and the mystery of the sphinx, the arid unforgiving desert and the great Nile river. He told him about the overcrowded streets and the gregarious markets in the heart of the capital. 

But what he spoke about most of all were the people.

Dirty, smelly and untrustworthy were words he used repeatedly when describing the Egyptian people. A once great nation reduced to nothing more than market traders, was a phrase he often used when describing them. Money-grabbing, workshy con-artists, was another turn of phrase he liked to relate to his impressionable son. It therefore became blindingly obvious, even to a child of Jim’s tender years, that his father hated Egyptians even more than he hated Australians.

An Egyptian
An Australian
Jim was was born on 5th October 1962 and was christened as James Alan Friteuse, but on the 1st November 1966, George forged his wife's signature on a Name Change Form and secretly changed his son's name to James Tiberius Kirk Friteuse by Statutory Declaration. Jim's father, it seemed, had become an obsessive fan of Star Trek, the new American science-fiction series that had recently been shown on television.

William Shatner as Captain James Tiberius Kirk out of Star Trek
Emily Louise Friteuse, Jim's mother, regarded adults who read science-fiction as juvenile and those who read fantasy like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as feeble-minded morons. Her idea of a good book was a pot-boiler romance novel that featured strong female characters who fell in and out of love with broad-shouldered, bronze-skinned local farmers, her particular favourite being He Ploughed Her Furrow.
The cover of He Ploughed Her Furrow by Bronte Austen
The kind of novel Emily enjoyed was one which could sum up the character of the protagonists and the development of the plot in one short paragraph on the back of the book, thus rendering its content both pointless and redundant.

Jim’s education had not begun at that stage in his life and so he knew nothing about his father’s love of science-fiction and his mother’s loathing of it. The only books on Jim’s shelves at that time were a small collection of dog-eared Ladybird books, of which Shopping For Cheese With Mother was his particular favourite.
Jim’s father hated the Ladybird books and would instead relate to him the plots of previous Star Trek episodes that he had committed to memory. Consequently, Jim not only grew up being brainwashed by his father into hating Egyptians, but his sponge-like mind was also filled with his father’s dislike of Klingons, and as he grew older Jim inevitably began to confuse the two.
An Australian
A Klingon
At around the age of ten, Jim developed an interest in cheese and by the time he was eleven he was able to identify any cheese from around the world just by its smell. 

Eager to cash-in on his son’s new-found skill, his father entered him into a competition that would eventually lead him to appear in the pilot for a new television series called New Zealand’s Got Talent

On the night of the live broadcast Jim waited nervously backstage for his turn in the spotlight, whilst his George gave him some friendly advice. Smile at the camera, son, Try to look confident, and Don’t worry, if there are any Egyptians in the audience they probably won’t hurt you, were just three of the many pearls of fatherly wisdom Jim was given before his turn finally came around.

A scene from New Zealand's Got Talent
Jim was the final contestant and competition for first place was fierce. He was up against a man who could whistle the complete works of Shakespeare using only a blade of grass, a dog that could recite (with the aid of its handler) the entire Greek alphabet backwards and a woman who could sing Top Hat whilst tap dancing and cooking a three course dinner for six (although she was later disqualified on the grounds that what she was doing was merely multi-tasking and all women could do that).

When it came to Jim’s five minutes of fame he amazed both the studio audience and the viewers at home with his astonishing olfactory abilities and he went on to win that night’s competition. Viewing figures for that one show were astronomical (more than 150 New Zealanders had tuned in to watch Jim’s triumphant victory), a record that was not matched until 1998. 

He was supposed to appear in the grand final of the show in twelve weeks’ time, but as it turned out all of New Zealand’s talent had appeared on that one programme and the rest of the series was quickly abandoned.

Inspired by her son’s success on New Zealand’s Got Talent, Emily decided to try her hand at writing her own version of the romance novels she loved so much. She locked herself in the toilet with several pads of writing paper and a large supply of HB pencils, subsisting only on Weetabix, orange juice and Fry’s Turkish Delights, which Jim passed to her at the start of each day. 

When she finally emerged three days later looking bedraggled and sunken-eyed she had the manuscript tucked under her arm and headed off to the local publishers without saying a word to anyone. Her book, entitled Cheese and Whine, about a prim and proper female wine critic that falls for a rather sadistic cheesemaker was an instant worldwide success.

Jim's mother's runaway bestseller
With their newly acquired wealth George and Emily bought a massive yacht and left Jim outside an all-boys’ boarding school with a sizable amount of cash and a clutching a note, which read:  
Please give this boy the best tertiary education you have to offer. He has a particular interest in dairy products.

Jim (circled) in his first Boarding Shool photograph
Jim completed his education with qualifications in Sheep Management, Pie Throwing and Cheese Appreciation. He left school at sixteen and rented a flat with some of the money that was left over from his abondonment and got himself a job serving at the cheese counter in Gimli's Grocery Store in Nikkinakkinori. 

He was still fascinated by cheese and always wondered where it came from. “One day,” he said to Mr Gimli, the aged owner of the grocery store, “I will know everything there is to know about cheese and its associated dairy products. The world of cheese will be mine, all mine and I will be known by everyone as La Grande Fromage!”

Jim hard at work in Gimli's Grocery Store
He was about to burst into maniacal laughter when the little bell above the shop door dinged merrily, signalling the arrival of a new customer. Jim stared in awe as the most beautiful girl he had ever seen entered the store. “Oh my,” he whispered as he ripped the foil off the cheddar cheese in desire!

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