Isn’t it common knowledge that in addition to being our 39th President, Jimmy Carter is an enduring exemplar of the sort of kindness and goodness that we all aspire to and the benchmark by which we measure our better selves; sort of the “anti-Larry David” inside each of us? Isn’t it also true that Carter’s own lack of ego and sincere focus on others was most certainly a liability as President, but has served him so well in the years afterward, ensuring his legacy as one of our greatest humanitarians?
I felt the warm glow of my own potential to do good one day in 1993 when I looked up from my desk in the Chairman’s Office at Time Warner Inc. and there he was, Jimmy Carter, standing before me, commanding, arm extended and smiling. As I rose, shook his hand and stammered, “it’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. President,” it flashed across my mind that indeed, like Jimmy Carter, I not only had the potential to do good works and think more of others but had a moral imperative to do so! I remember in the second I took to consider the meaning of what it means to be truly giving, another series of thoughts, more powerful and plangent, flashed across my mind with the velocity of twenty-five years of low self-esteem: I am important because I work for the Chairman of the largest media company in the world and I fucking still hate that sadist Mr. Bonner and every other teacher who failed to protect me and Dr. Swanee the Superintendent and the rest of the Board of Education of East Brunswick New Jersey for ten years of sanctioned abuse and Leslie something or other the assistant principal who was the first and last man I ever knew named “Leslie” for refusing to help me when they lit my locker on fire and my acrylic winter coat melted and he said it was “spontaneous combustion” and I wonder what that dickwad Craig whathisname is doing in this second that I am becoming exponentially more important by dint of the fact that I am shaking the hand of Jimmy Carter which is also making me connected to things like world peace, international diplomacy and Jesus Christ himself and why does this feel so much more palliative than psychotherapy and…..
But back to the cheese ring.
Since we can’t all have lovely memories like this from which we might point our moral compasses, let’s talk about what Jimmy Carter enjoys eating. According to Esquire Magazine’s 1984 piece, The President and First Lady, “served (the cheese ring) at the White House on many occasions during his four years in Washington, and it’s long been a favorite of Rosalynn’s. She tells us it can be used as an hors d’oeuvre or as a compliment to the meal.”
So there you have it. Simple. Proud. Just like Mr. and Mrs. Carter.
With the holidays upon us, let’s acknowledge the goodness in each of us by enjoying Jimmy’s Plains Special Cheese Ring, which we might consider as a symbol of unity and connectedness and freedom from the bondage of self. Of course, the ring shape is completely optional and I think you should feel free to customize this aspect of the recipe. Consider molding your cheese into a peace sign, a family crest (if you have one) or the silhouette of a famous person you admire with a distinctive profile , like Bob Hope or Amy Winehouse.
Jimmy Carter’s Plains Special Cheese Ring
• 1 lb. grated sharp cheese
• 1 cup finely chopped nuts
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1 small finely grated onion
• Black pepper
• Dash of cayenne
Mix all the ingredients, then mold with your hands into the desired shape (Mrs. Carter molds it into a ring). Place in the refrigerator until chilled.