I’m in the thick of producing a video for the California Artisan Cheese Guild. During the course of the interviews as I asked about the amazing resurgence of dairy culture in Northern California, I got a variety of answers.
Jill Giacomini Basch of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese mentioned an article by R.W. Apple in the New York Times that ran in November, 2001, entitled “Normandy North of the Golden Gate”. She points to it as being the “lightbulb” moment when the featured group of Bay Area cheesemakers began to see that they could market their cheese and celebrate the emerging phenomenon of unique products produced in a specific region of the country.
A quick Google search brought the article right to me…and I was very moved reading this account from the scene in 2001, a mere 9 years ago. It is almost unbelieveable how much cheese consciousness has grown and appreciation has flourished in many regions of the country.
The story features profiles of cheese industry luminaries: Bellwether Farms, Redwood Hill Farm, Cowgirl Creamery and, at the time, new kids on the block, Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese. It’s a wonderful glimpse into the not-so-distant past of cheese.
My personal favorite bits: Bellwether matriarch Cindy Callahan citing her Sarah Lawrence professor Joseph Campbell and his pronouncement to “Follow Your Bliss!” as a call to cheesemaking and Redwood Hill’s Jennifer Bice responding the reporters request for old, chalky Crottin with, what I suspect is a lament that: ”When we started, we sold a well-aged crottin, but people complained. Americans want it fresh, so that’s what we give them.” My how times – and palates – have changed!
Moments like this, looking in from the 50,000 foot level, seeing the incredible growth and change in public awareness of and appreciation for artisan and specialty cheeses, I’m reminded about why I love what I do. Being part of a community of people committed to changing how America eats and responds to food is a great place to be.
*Test your cheese I.Q.: which cheesemakers’ primary milk type is incorrectly identified? It was a glaring error to me and then I saw the small type correction… makes you feel good to be able to fact check the NYT ; )
**This blog was first posted in March, 201o on a previous incarnation of the Cheese Chick blog.