Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cheeeeeese (skip this post if that's not your thing)

To know me is to know that I love cheese. I tweeted a few weeks ago that I dream of one day owning an entire parmigiano reggiano. That's not a joke. I totally do. Most days I would choose cheese over chocolate, so long as it was real cheese, not that processed stuff that masquerades as such.

I'm fortunate to work near The Herdsman, a food store that takes pride in supplying real food. They take, amongst other things, their cheese pretty seriously. They have a cheese of the month, for goodness' sake. (This month it's Mauri Gorgonzola Bontazola, which I haven't tried yet and have to get my hands on before April.) But the cheese that got me excited this afternoon while I was shopping was this:

Isigny mimolette and camembert

Isigny Mimolette vielle!!! (The camembert was nice too, but that particular brand is always readily available to me.)

I wandered over to the cheese cabinet looking for some Gruyere, when I spotted it out of the corner of my eye. Orange. Red Leicester? Not with that crust. Could it be??? Indeed it was. I grabbed a hunk as quick as I could.

So why am I so excited? Because mimolette, deliciously/disgustingly, gains a good deal of its flavour from cheese mites, which give it its characteristic grey rind.

Mmmmmm. Yep, that's pretty gross if cheese isn't your thing. (Don't worry, they're dead by the time you eat the cheese. I think.) But I was thrilled to get the chance to try something different, a little bit rustic, a little bit primal. The thing is, in Australia, our cheese making and importation is severely hampered by a wide ban on raw milk cheeses. This is unfortunate, because most cheese connoisseurs will tell you that pasteurizing milk completely changes its character and flavour, leading to inferior cheese. Most of the world's most famous and ancient cheeses are raw milk cheeses, and to my mind, the wisdom of ages says that if people have been eating them safely for centuries, then there isn't a problem to eat them now. Indeed, the bad has been lifted for a couple of French Roquefort cheeses. So what gives? Are French bacteria safer? It doesn't seem fair to Australian cheesemakers to not have the right to make cheeses according to time-honoured means, but allowing consumers to buy similar imported cheeses. And it doesn't seem fair to a cheese lover like me to not be able to experience some raw cheeses but not others because of an arbitrarily made decision.

Slow Food Australia are working to amend these laws, and they have a petition to sign if you're interested. You can find it here. If you have even a passing interest in cheese (or indeed, in freedom of choice in what you put in your mouth) then I encourage you to take a minute to sign. And if you're interested in learning about the production of a number of famous cheeses, ABC2 is screening a show called Cheese Slices. You can watch it here.

And how was the mimolette, you ask? Sharp, fruity and nutty. And hard. But all around delicious.