Thursday, March 18, 2010

A friend we have in cheeses

I wish I could show a picture of all the different kinds of cheese we have sampled since we came here.

Wales has always had great cheese. One of the national dishes of Wales, Welsh Rarebit, is cheese-based.

Different parts of Wales have different native and traditional cheeses, and the great outbreak of local foodie-ism that has swept the UK has revived many of these ancient and bioregionally-appropriate types.

With so much wet, high, and cold land in moorland and rough pasture, hardy cattle, sheep and goat raising were probably always more sustainable a land use on many sites than attempts at arable farming. And more intensive herding regimes intended to produce more meat and less dairy and cheese would necessarily have been harder on the land. These ancient human ecological factors haven't gone away just because we are now an industrial society.

Cheese is a Good Thing.

Last night's cheese board, at the Wynnstay Hotel in town, where we went for the Big Fancy Dinner we had carefully scrimped and planned and budgeted for, was the cheesy piece de resistance.

There were three different kinds of Welsh goat cheese, a smoked cheese, a Caerphilly, and what looked like a Brie but was possibly a Welsh variety too.

Here's a bit of Welsh cheese lore (and law):

"How good are Welsh cheeses? They’re so good they were once used as part of divorce settlements. Under the laws of Welsh ruler Hywel Dda cheeses that were washed in brine went to the wife, and cheeses that were hung up went to the husband."


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