Cheese Dreams

Johanna Sorrentino
5 min readAug 17, 2016

I first learned of the cheese dream prophesy while half-drunk in London. The nice London boy who I was drunk with couldn’t believe that I had never heard that eating cheese before bed gives you very real, very strange dreams.

It reminded me of something — perhaps the only thing — I learned in my introduction to philosophy class: Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy”.

In this groundbreaking 1641 publication, Rene Descartes postulated that the mere fact that we dream provides evidence that we cannot, beyond a shadow of a doubt, tell the difference between reality and illusion. Descartes’ “how do you know you’re not dreaming” argument is still one of the most solid examples of an indisputable philosophical proof.

Today, it is believed that Descartes, in addition to being a logic powerhouse, was most likely an exceptionally vivid dreamer. In fact, his shrink would have told him he has an incredibly active temporo-parietal junction, an information hub of the brain that has a party every night in the brains of “high-recall dreamers.” (Ruby, 2014)

But, perhaps this junction of his brain got a little bump every night in the form of a very delicious, very French, midnight snack. It stands to reason. Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine (now Descartes), France, went to school in La Fleche, and spent much of his life in the Netherlands at a time when both countries’ economies were by and large agricultural. That, my friend, is a lot of great f*cking cheese.

The man was clearly a cheese lush.

My own dream experiences have been for the most part wonderful, if sporadic, but I have always been disturbed by the fact that you very rarely get a satisfying ending. Once you wake up, that’s it, the party’s over. It’s like getting to the last chapter of a really weird book and the only copy in existence suddenly busts into flames. After waking up, I’ve tried laying in bed “inventing” an ending, but my conscious mind is never as creative or bizarre as my unconscious mind, and the exercise falls flat (and I’m late to work.)

I’m pseudo-obsessed with how stories end. For the entire year I was 8, I only wrote stories that ended with the main character waking up in a fog, the tell-tale article from the dream lying on her dresser. There was the period in my late teens when I would always read the end of a book first. Like a rebel. And also in case it bursts into flames.

I, quite conveniently, attribute this ending thing as the sole reason why I’m so bad a breakups. But, it’s also why I find dreams so damned intriguing. I’m Tantalus, and like hanging orbs of fruit the delicious endings to the stories I dream just…pull away. And then I’m awake, and I have to suddenly be a person.

What follows are the notes of a pseudo-pseudo-scientific experiment I am conducting on myself involving several different types of cheese consumed within 2 hours of going to bed.

My hope is that with enough late-night cheese, I’ll be able to capture an ending to a delicious story. And, not unlike a mad scientist, I hope to uncrack the rather unscientific mystery behind cheese dreams: Can cheese give one a kooky-ass dream? And does the type of cheese (read: mold) determine what kind of dream one has?

And so I embark…

Note: Most of these experiences “snuck up on me,” i.e. a piece of cheese fell into my mouth between the hours of 9 and midnight. Any time I told myself “I am going to eat cheese so that I can have a cheese dream” nothing would happen. Clearly a relaxed and unexpectant mind allows the compounds in the cheese to do their best work. More data on this needed.

Chapter 1: Monterey Jack

There was a matter-of-factness about me. I came to a narrative consciousness in a rather placid mood. Placid, considering the predicament this third-person self of mine was the midst of experiencing: The Russian Government was planning to publicly assassinate me.

The assassination was planned to take place in a large Colosseum-like venue. I wasn’t alone, there was to be a host of other fellow assassinees — none of which I knew or seemed to care much about. The justification for my killing was so besides the point, my imagination never even bothered crafting a reason. I mean, does the Russian Government ever really have a good reason to kill people? I mean, really?

They planned to kill me, for sure, but I was towards the bottom of their killing program. In fact, they would only kill me only if they had time. Meaning, if there was some kind of hold up in the killings taking place before mine, then I, in fact, would not be assassinated.

Using this knowledge I hatched a clever plan. I essentially canvassed every friend I could think of via telephone asking them, if they weren’t busy, could they come to the Russian Killing Stadium and wreak complete havoc in order to delay my assassination. Everyone I talked to complied with calm and steadfast assurance, and I knew no one would flake on me.

The ideas were solid. I suggested, perhaps, streaking across the stadium as an excellent time-sucking distraction. Someone suggested that a stadium full of wreckless hair-pullers would be enough to delay the Russian Government, surely. And if I knew anyone could cause a gale-force ruckus, and find the time to save my life, it was my big brother. We had this in the bag.

But, as a shrewd dissident, I knew for every Plan A, you need a better Plan B. Simple. The only person I had not canvassed was my ex-boyfriend because, for logical reasons, he was in charge of the getaway car. For, if all of these diversions proved ineffectual, and the Russian Government did keep to schedule, I intended to run like the wind. Into the get-away car, and… get away.

The dream covered all the key planning stages, which are perhaps the most crucial and interesting parts of any assassination escape. The rest shall remain under the cover of dairy-induced slumber.

Johanna is a writer, editor, professional Googler, and arm-chair sociologist who arcs towards proper adulthood in the Mission District of San Francisco.