People who eat cheese make better lovers! It's true. Have you ever watched a Turophile eat a perfectly matured Camembert or a cut into an Epoisses that's at its "point" of perfection? These cheese addicts do these actions with such expression that it seems to involve their whole body. It is truly a spectacle to witness.
Turophiles seem to be mediators of what good artisan cheeses are, and that is, a true expression of the land. These "expressions" manifest itself through oohs and ahhhs and curious facial quirks and peculiar body language. It is a translation of what cheese would say if it cheese could talk. Just food for thought.
The topic I'd really like to touch on is the growing American Artisan Cheesemaking that has taken hold of the culinary industry. It seems that every food publication there is some mention of an American Cheesemaker or a hot new Cheese Shop. On average, we're not eating as much cheese as our European counterparts, but, we have a deeper affection for it. More restaurants are seeing the benefits to adding a cheese course to their menu and cheese trays have been elevated commodity cheeses to cheeses with a higher level of artistry and quality.
American Artisan Cheesemakers have taken great strides in the quality and production of their cheeses. For example, the Wyke Farms Annual competition, which is held in the UK, has had, for the first time ever, an American Cheddar take 1st place. Is this big? Absolutely! So big, that it has forced the hand of a certain Prime Minister to step down from office. I think… Although this isn't the first time an American cheese has taken first place in a competition abroad, it does speak volumes to the level of cheesemaking that is going on here in the US.
What all this translates to be is that in order for these great Artisan Cheesemakers to survive and continue to create a truly American product, we must support them. It is not easy support a dairy farm, and it is not cheap to make cheese. In this Northern appellation, farmers markets are highly seasonal and extremely punctuated. What can we do as a consumer to support these Cheesemakers? Seek out those farmers markets and cheese shops that are carrying these American artisan cheeses.
It is fair to say that sometimes Artisan American Cheeses can give us a little sticker shock. Cheesemaking is a labor of love - the hard work and money goes into feeding and caring for animals, producing the cheese, general overhead and licensing, packaging and delivery. The price of an Artisan cheese should never be compared to that of pre-packed shelved commodity cheeses. That's like comparing apples to oranges.
I encourage you to visit www.cheesebyhand.com
. This site is very informative, smart and supportive towards the Artisan American Cheese producer. These new cheeses could eventually weave themselves into the fabric of America's Culinary identity.
Vincent Maniaci is co-owner of The Cheese Iron in Scarborough, Maine. www.thecheeseiron.com