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I was drawn to the word, “cheese-stick” appearing in the article titled, “The book that didn’t exist” in the Opinion Pages of the New York Times (April 14), which deals with the art and craft of writing. It reads:

We had collaborated on a project that began a decade earlier. Ruth, a children’s book editor at Random House, was a regular reader of my stories and perhaps the only reader of a manuscript I wrote in my Alphabet City apartment, among my first in New York. It was a sixth-floor walk-up with a cheese-stick operation on the ground floor. A byproduct of cheese-stick manufacturing is a vomit-like smell.

None of CED, OED and Merriam-Webster carries “cheese-stick” although they carry “cheesecake” and “cheese steak.” I can’t find the word on Google Ngram too.

From the context, I surmise “cheese-stick” means “makeshift, sloppy or fragile” operations and construction, but I’m not sure.

What does it mean? Is the word in current use with that meaning?

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    I would think a "cheese stick" is just a stick made of cheese. Making cheese (whether it is shaped into sticks or not) is a notoriously smelly operation. – Peter Shor Apr 16 '14 at 0:50
  • As the answer notes; literal cheese sticks are very much a thing. – LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 16 '14 at 2:19
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I think it literally means a stick of cheese, such as string cheese. However, in New York Mozzarella sticks would make sense; many small companies specialize in making a particular type of food in a small building. This reminds me of a recent article in the New Yorker about fresh mozzarella making in NYC a few decades ago. Since Mozzarella sticks are what comes up when you Google cheese stick, I think that's what it is.

I really don't think cheese-stick is being used metaphorically here; I've never heard of that expression and it doesn't really make sense.

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