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What a viral story about mums, MDMA, and brie teaches us about fake news

It's un-brie-lievable

What a viral story about mums, MDMA, and brie teaches us about fake news
22 May 2018

There are headlines, and then there are headlines. Take this, from the Metro, last week: “Brieing is the new cheese and MDMA drug craze middle class women are trying.” Say no more. It’s a modern classic; a story that will be shared from stranger to stranger and go recurrently viral for years to come, shared with obligatory *shocked face* emoji and phrases like: ‘i cant even’.

The story is simple: groups of middle-class women are, supposedly, holding dinner parties where they are bombing wraps of MDMA lodged inside hunks of brie. It’s a nightmarish blend of Come Dine With Me and 24 Hour Party People, filled with cheesy nibbles of sex, drugs and respectable dining. There are three accounts that the Metro uses to “prove” the existence of the craze: 

1) A 50-year-old businesswoman from London

The woman who, shockingly, wished to remain anonymous, told the Metro that she has “a strong circle of female friends” who had already worn out “all the latest fads, food fashions and destination dinner parties”. Something, she says, was missing.

After asking her son how best to ingest the MDMA, she and her pals “wrapped some of the powder in a cigarette paper and put it in Brie and all took some each.” After forty minutes the colours in the rug turn more vivid and they find themselves in “an in-depth conversation about my fantasy sex life.”

2) A 45-year-old single saleswoman from Sutton

Said saleswoman said: “I thought it was funny that we were all taking ‘E’s n Cheese’ together and we did have a real laugh on the night. But the come down I had was absolutely terrible.” She never indulged in it again.

3) A 42-year-old media executive, who is married with two children

Just to make everything even more absurd, we are told of a woman who uses “hoisin duck pancakes” to package her MDMA, and thus ends the night with one mate “wrapped up in the velvet curtains”, one hallucinating at the bathroom wall, “and the others dancing to 90s rave music while playing bongos”.  

While this story is brilliant, it doesn’t ring entirely true. Firstly, a “craze” can’t be proclaimed on the basis of two “brie-ers” – that’s not a trend, it’s just an unusual tea time. 

While the women’s stories might be true, it’s probably wise to approach them with some level of skepticism, if only for how contrived they are (hoisin-duck-woman’s story reads like a piece of teen fiction). It also seems a bit bizarre that a 50-year-old woman knows how to buy gram of MDMA yet doesn’t know (and has to ask their child?!) how to use it.

The truth is, though, that truth isn’t all that important for viral stories. We live in an era of fake news and hoax headlines, bombarded with bullshit in the name of content. It’s like cream cheese on a bagel – it spreads quickly regardless of whether there is a gaping hole in the middle, evident by the fact that endless mainstream news sources (including the Daily Mail, The Sun, and – et tu? – Gloucestershire Live) have picked up on the story, even though it’s based on just two accounts.

In true journalistic spirit, we decided to do a bit more digging and thus reached out to the optimal source of middle-aged, middle-class women: Mumsnet. The response was incredible. Over two hundred replies in two hours, with no anecdotes of similar experiences but just incredible (and similarly made-up-sounding) cheese and drug combos:

Tragically, the thread was shut down before more combinations could be dreamt up. Though, to be fair to Mumsnet, it was because the post was a journalistic request rather than a shady cover up of some mumsy drugz and dairy epidemic.

We may have learnt nothing new about middle-class women doing MDMA, but we did learn that they do banter as well as the best of them. But while brie-ing may not be a craze yet, these news reports could still see it take off. Just in case, we decided to ask a cheese expert what taking MDMA and brie would actually be like.

Molly McDonough is the associate editor of Culture, a brilliantly-named magazine that describes itself as “the word on cheese.” Brie, she tells me, is best summarised as a “soft, mould-ripened cheese that’s been produced in the area around Seine-et-Marne, a region just outside Paris, for centuries.”

The truth is, though, it wouldn’t make a great companion for MDMA:

“While authentic French raw-milk bries can be quite flavourful, many of the brie-style imitation cheeses available in grocery stores are on the milder side: I don’t think these would be great at masking chemical flavours,” she says. 

Brie, sans MDMA

“In fact, aromas tend to linger longer when the palate is coated in fat, so a creamy brie could even amplify the MDMA flavour.” McDonough argues it’s probably best to simply get your buzz from the brie: “The casomorphins naturally present in cheese have been shown to play with dopamine receptors in the brain, producing an opioid effect – for some of us, that’s stimulating enough.”

It seems then – at least, according to a cheese expert and Mumsnet – the Cheese ‘n’ E craze might be more legend than legen-dairy. After all, we’ve only heard from three people that have experienced it and even then, one of them ducked the cheese hype in favour of pancakes. Maybe I’m just getting old, but an oozing slab of brie would probably go much nicer with a punnet of red grapes or glass of Cabernet Franc. Plus, to end with the nightmare thought of a Mumsnet commenter: 

“Christ, imagine coming up with a belly full of French cheese.” 

We also reached out to Metro for comment on their original story and are currently awaiting their response.

(Pics: Getty, Mumsnet)