CHEESE 2001 – Cheese, Please

19 Sep 2001

I am no longer able to take long trips. It is something I am sorry about, for I miss the contacts with the numerous friends I count in the world of cheese (contacts I miss as well with friends from my various other circles). I must, therefore, be content to announce to you in writing the publication in 2002 of Le monde du fromage. In this way I will present to you my small contribution to the defense of one of the finest products of human creativity, in the country that, precisely 25 centuries ago, saw the birth of the civilizing wave that was to flood Western Europe.
I begin with an observation that seeks to be completely free of critical intentions towards the name of Slow Food. This name is not in harmony with our Latin identity, but represents rather the choice of a language spoken by the majority of the inhabitants of the earth. It is, therefore, an ‘added value’ in terms of communication and the diffusion thereof. I feel it is my duty here to clarify some of the contradictory and often confusing information that accompanies the word ‘cheese’ – and I refer to the word ‘cheese’, not to the product, which is noble and dependable.
If I presume to assume the role of analyst here, it is partly because I am aware that we Europeans owe to our geographic situation the fact that the countries we live in – permeated by Graeco-Roman civilization – enjoy a privileged position between the 50th and 35th northern parallels, the only temperate zone where virtually all the milk-giving animal species can be bred and their milk collected and used for cheese-making. For the purpose of comparison, it’s worth noting that in the Southern Hemisphere no comparable zone exists, if not in New Zealand and Tasmania, whose products are earmarked mainly for Oceania and the nations of the Pacific Rim.

If we examine the map of South America, the line of the 15th degree south passes through the center of Patagonia, an unfertile, windswept land deemed unsuitable for animal husbandry.
Moving to South Africa, the same line passes in the middle of the sea, 1,000 kilometers south of the Cape of Good Hope.
The North American continent, which boasts vast spaces in temperate zones similar to those of Europe, tends to produce cheeses that are made to satisfy consumer tastes, more geared to hygienic guarantees than to the pleasure of flavor. In my humble opinion, such cheese is more protein, necessary for a well-balanced diet, than a dessert capable of satisfying our palates and honoring the gastronomic traditions of which we are so proud.
Cheese-wise, America is truly ‘a different world’. Its efforts are concentrated on using the pasteurization and microfiltration of milk to produce cheeses highly dependable for a well-balanced diet – positive objectives from a health point of view.
Maybe it is with the subtle intention of converting American producers to our philosophy that we have chosen their language to create the antithesis to fast food. This word choice also invites them to react against the scientific temptations without giving in to the fear of the bacterial diseases that might be carried by raw milk.
For all these reasons, I have joined the crusade and wish to congratulate its promoters and activists. Heartfelt thanks to them frankly for offering me the chance to develop a few aspects of my thoughts about cheese.

Pierre Androuet is a member of the Institut Français du Goût, a founder of the Guilde des Fromages and Maître Fondateur of the Confrérie du Taste Fromage de France

Adapted by Anya Fernald

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