Cheese lovers of the world, unite!

Posted by on Sep 29, 2011 | 0 comments

Last weekend I attended the Slow Food movement’s biannual Cheese! festival–which for three days unites dairy devotees, be they farmers, cheese makers, distributers, or passionate consumers–from around the world. The festival takes place every two years in the picturesque town of Bra, hometown of the founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini, situated in the hills of the Northern Italian region of Piedmont, about an hour’s drive from Turin.

The festival abounds with hundreds of stalls worked by passionate and animated vendors, ready to give tastes and detailed explanations of their products–primarily cheese, but also other dairy specialties, small scale microbrews, and wine. Besides offering samples of thousands of delicious artisan products, Cheese! promotes Slow Food’s social, political, environmental objectives such as the preservation of raw milk products, agricultural biodiversity, product diversity, traditional farming, and small producers. The festival, while supporting traditional methods, also hosts stalls of biotech companies working towards environmental efficiency in food production. Additionally, there are educational booths for children in an effort to instill in them an appreciation of the importance of what we eat.

The excitement in the funky smelling air was palpable among the colossal international crowd of cheese-obsessed participants as they savored morsels of cheese of every shape, size, texture, flavor, age, country of origin, and milk-type imaginable. Although the majority of the products hailed from Italy, France, and England, delicacies from less renowned traditionally dairy-centric cultures were showcased and equally valued. The Pokot Ash Yogurt from West Pokot, Kenya, a raw milk yogurt sprinkled with ash from the local cromwo tree that gives the yogurt a complex, slightly smoky flavor, and oscypek, a labor-intensive, intricately designed, golden, smoked raw sheep’s milk cheese from Poland. Crowds of patrons of all backgrounds lined up for tastes.

If you are a cheese connoisseur, I know this blog is probably only frustrating you–but try not to despair, you don’t have to wait another two years. Slow Food events are popping up more and more all over the world as the community grows. Participating in the Slow Food movement is more fun than other conservationist movements as it enables you to take an active role in the food movement by simply taking the time and care to eat delicious foods made with respect for quality, tradition, and the environment. The Slow Food mission offers a rare opportunity to conserve by consuming–and enjoy yourself in the process.