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In the north of England, the groaning cheese, AKA sick wife's cheese, was a special cheese prepared to celebrate childbirth. Local traditions might also call for groaning cake (quite common) and groaning malt (primarily Scots); all of these gain their name from the sounds of childbirth.

The groaning cheese was apparently a food surrounded by a particularly dense cloud of superstition. Physically it was simply a large round of Chesire cheese provided by the husband. However, tradition required that it be cut from the middle outwards to feed the guests visiting the mother after birth. The cheese, slowly hollowed out from the center, was kept as a ring for as long as possible, and it was said that originally the child would be passed through this ring of cheese on the day of his or her christening.

Meanwhile, some of those slices of cheese were not eaten, but saved for magical purposes. The first-cut slices were saved by young maidens to tuck under their pillows, pierced by three pins from their own pin-cushions, which was supposed to allow them to dream of their lovers (this was recorded in 1829, and presumably meant that they would dream of their future husbands); prior to this, the bits of cheese might be tossed in the midwife's smock to further enhance its mystical properties (again, historical context suggests that we would refer to her shift, rather than her smock).

Sadly, it appears that this tradition has completely died out, and one can no longer buy a groaning cheese, nor expect to be served a slice when visiting new parents.

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