Milks, Crafts and Places

26 Aug 2011

The wonderful world of dairy will be celebrated in all its shapes and forms at the eighth edition of Cheese this September 16–19. Since Slow Food organized the first edition of this international event in 1997, a large network of artisan cheesemakers, cheesemongers and experts has grown. Every two years they come together in Bra, Italy, taking over the streets to present their unique products, meet enthusiastic visitors and discuss the challenges of the trade and share solutions in workshops and discussions.

The theme of Cheese 2011 is milks, crafts and places. Special attention will be paid to exploring the complexity of knowledge, needs, problems and resources linked to dairy products, turning the spotlight onto these three important pillars for quality.

Milks – The complexity and variety of cheese starts with the complexity and variety of milk. Milk may come from cows, sheep, goats, yaks and other animals, with each species having a rich variety of breeds. Many of these varieties are unsuited to the living conditions imposed by industrial farming and many are at risk of extinction. Their milk produces cheeses with a unique taste and story, the result of pastures and practices that constitute an invaluable environmental and cultural heritage. Most importantly, raw milk is a guarantee of the highest possible sensory quality, displaying a close relationship to the land. Slow Food has led the battle for the recognition of raw-milk cheese quality, bringing it to an international level since the first edition.

Crafts – Herders are the guardians of the rural and mountain environments, and pasturing animals helps protect many environments from abandonment and erosion. Cheesemakers are the repositories of centuries-old empirical wisdom, refined and passed down through the generations. Affineurs, the cheese agers, guarantee an income to producers and carefully tend cheeses as their flavors and aromas improve. The Cheese event gives rightful recognition to these artisans, bringing them to center-stage.

Places – Alpine dairies, mountain pastures and rural landscapes. Sustainable development can only be driven by the creation and implementation of local micro-economies based on quality, environmental protection and the maintenance of young populations in marginal areas. Promoting local products can mean creating work and social opportunities for communities.

Alongside a spotlight on these three themes, attention will also be given to the challenges facing the dairy industry. Workshops and activities will focus on a range of issues such as: an uncertain future for youth who wish to dedicate themselves to artisan diary production; or the potential of product labeling to go beyond a list of ingredients and indicate quality through naming the breed, cheesemaker and place of production.

France is the 2011 star country of Cheese, a nation that has long protected raw-milk cheese production; promoted the work of cheesemakers and affineurs; and treasured regional differences. French producers will be joined by international producers including many Slow Food Presidia. Favorites from past editions such as Bulgarian Tcherni Vit Green Cheese, Swedish Jämtland Cellar Matured Goat Cheese and Pokot Ash Yogurt from Kenya will be joined by three Presidia participating in Cheese for the first time: traditional Salers from France, Mavrovo Reka Mountain Pasture Cheeses from Macedonia and Mascarplin from Switzerland. Along with these will be many of the Italian Slow Food Presidia Cheeses and representatives from Terra Madre food communities. The Presidia will all display their products on a dedicated street.

Cheese unfolds around the historic centre of Bra, the birthplace of the Slow Food movement and its office headquarters. The wide variety of events taking place over the four days of Cheese will include Taste Workshops and other educational events; the Great Hall of Cheese showcasing 150 international cheeses; street food offering Italian regional gastronomic traditions and around 200 exhibitors offering their products for tasting and purchase.

Cheese is organized by the City of Bra and Slow Food.
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