Last Autumn, I went to a Neal’s Yard Dairy tasting at Grey’s Cheese shop in Pangbourne. Admittedly, it was a pretty wanky scene: being talked through a selection of cheeses by a floppy-haired cheese aficionado. But the eclectic selection of attendees (average age 40) and the good, honest, cheese-loving women of Grey’s certainly put paid to any sense of pretension (admittedly, the Crane boys could have probably slipped in unremarked, but I digress).
At the time I was a cheese consumer in much the same way as the majority in the western world: enjoying it as a non-essential essential, mostly supermarket Cheddar, Parmesan, and any name Brie, often not really tasting it grated onto my pasta dish or puddled on a pizza. My wife and I attended this event more out of a lack of other options than any deeper reason; we had just returned from three years in California and were marooned in the countryside outside of Reading while she worked a temporary contract at a local school. I was lonely. And I found Grey’s.
Perhaps loneliness makes us most vulnerable to epiphany. For epiphany arrived that night on the tip of the tongue for, lo, these cheeses were unpasteurised. It was a whole other deal: long finishes, complexity, notes. All those wanky terms usually floated at a vineyard were completely transferable to the cheese on offer.
As we ate, the “cheesepert” spurted forth about the trials and tribulations of artisan cheese in the UK. It’s had a rough ride, to be recounted in a later post, but the summary – as these cheeses attested to – was that UK artisan cheese is in some kind of Golden Age flowering; a resurrection thirty years plus in the making.
Through this blog, I hope to slow down on my cheese consumption (certainly no more weed-fuelled-whole-brie-wedge-a-night-poundings of my mid-twenties), take more careful note, and commit those notes to this blog. I’ll focus on domestic artisan cheeses, as it still feels like there’s a lack of awareness (I base this on a feeling in my waters) regarding home grown farmhouse (interchangeable term for ‘artisan’) cheese.
Cholesterol’s for wusses – nobody lives forever.
Thanks for reading.