The Ark Docks at Cheese

19 Jul 2013

From the simplicity of a creamy, farmhouse butter to the cool tanginess of a freshly made yogurt to the nuanced aromas, tastes and texture of a well-aged cheese, dairy products give us a spectrum of flavors and traditions across cultures. But now these flavors are at risk of being lost in the face of industrial food production and disappearing traditions. At this year’s edition of Cheese, Slow Food’s international event dedicated to dairy products taking place in Bra, Italy from September 20 – 23, we will celebrate these foods and the artisanal techniques involved in their creation. To help do this, we’re inviting everyone who is coming to Cheese to bring a sample of an endangered dairy product from home to nominate for the Ark of Taste!

An online catalogue that highlights small-scale, quality food products that are being lost at an alarming rate, the Ark of Taste plays a crucial role in Slow Food’s mission to save biodiversity, cultural heritage and traditional knowledge. The Ark currently lists more than 1200 products, including cheeses, but also fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, spirits and more.

The traditional cheeses and dairy products brought by visitors and exhibitors to the event will have the opportunity to board the Ark of Taste and be put on display in Piazza Valfré di Bonzo in the center of Bra, so that everyone will have a chance to see the global diversity of some of these lesser-known products. Experts will be on hand to help categorize and present your contributions, and you will receive a small gift to thank you for sharing a piece of your culinary culture with us!

Thousands of artisanal cheeses are disappearing around the world, along with the knowledge behind them: from the US where rising costs and the difficulty in obtaining permits are making life difficult for traditional cheesemakers, to Europe, where the abandonment of alpine pastures threatens transhumance cheesemaking traditions. But the Ark of Taste represents hope for the future. Adding products to the Ark calls attention to their situation and helps bring them out of obscurity.

The Ark of Taste currently lists 185 different cheeses and dairy products from dozens of countries, many of which will be making an appearance this September. Products from the Ark may go on to become Presidia projects with specific plans to improve production. Consumer groups, journalists and other organizations, from the local to the international level, can also use the Ark of Taste as a starting point for their own campaigns or projects to call attention to these traditional food treasures.

If you’re coming to Cheese, nominate your product online, check off “I’ll bring a sample to Cheese 2013” and come to the event with your traditional, endangered cheese in hand!

If you’re not coming to the event, you can still get involved and nominate a product (in more than two dozen categories) to board the Ark.

Cheese is Slow Food’s biennial event dedicated to the world of small-scale artisan dairy production. Find out more here.

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