Great series, Molly!
“This is the final post in a series by Molly McDonough following American cheesemakers attempting to re-create traditional European cheeses. Learn about the difficulties as well as the benefits of this type of cheese making, as well as how terroir and the idea of a cheese tied to a location changes when that cheese is made in a new location.
I started this blog a few months ago with some questions about the identity of American cheeses. If so many of them are modeled after European originals, including those protected by law, can they ever be truly ‘local’? Are the deep traditions and protected statuses of cheeses in Europe a hinderance (sic) to the creation of amazing cheeses in America, or, on the contrary, do they push our cheesemakers to be more inventive?
As it happens, this cheese identity crisis I’ve been having is personal. A few months ago I moved back to the U.S. from a tiny village in Switzerland where I’d been making Raclette with a guy who had done it his whole life, in much the same way as it had been done in the same tiny village for eons. At the local cheese festival I sold plates of local Raclette alongside ancient villagers who explained to me, over bottomless plastic cups of local wine, that this was their cheese. It could never be made anywhere else, with cows grazed on any other pastures. Somewhat different than the locavores I meet in America–who believe in supporting a local economy–this connection between a product and the land seems to me to run deeper in Europe. This is a place where the belief that a cheese is inextricably tied to the tiny village it comes from is protected not only culturally, but often legally.”