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Where does it come from?

05-06-2014

I SPENT half an hour today chatting to a chap from the British Cheese Board.

It's one of the pleasures of being a freelance writer; getting to meet and talk to interesting people doing interesting things.

I've been commissioned to write a story on British cheese, the traditions, new kids on the block (pardon the pun) success stories and the like. And again it drove home to me how important in today's world it is to ascertain as much as possible where the food you eat comes from.

The lamb I buy from my village butcher is, for example, from a farmer a few miles away - I know because I asked and that's always a good start. I know when I buy that shoulder that not only am I supporting the butcher by buying my meat from him instead of a faceless supermarket, I am also supporting the local farmer he bought the lamb from. I am supporting the lamb too, in a roundabout way, because I know it's been reared locally on good green pastures and hasn't travelled far in its free-range life.

By finding out about the sources of our food, we can make educated decisions. I'm not saying only ever buy local food; that would rob us of some of the world's finest and most enjoyable recipes and tastes. But at least ask the question when you're buying.

Back to cheese. It comes from milk, predominantly cows. Cows eat grass. So it stands to reason that what type of grass the cows have been grazing on effects the taste of the milk. Cheesemakers tell me they can tell which field the cows have been feeding in when they come to taste their cheese. Turns out that morning milk makes the best cheese too and in an effort to increase taste and quality and to reduce carbon footprint, cheesemakers are using morning milk straight from the parlour. It is, at this time, at just the right temperature for cheesemaking and doesn't need to be heated up, which makes it lose a certain je ne sais quoi. Apparently, cheese made as naturally and traditionally as possible tends to have a better flavour.

This shouldn't be a surprise to us. Vegetables grown in your own garden out-taste anything you can buy. It's a good rule of thumb that locally grown, carefully nurtured produce cooked simply and quickly is very hard to beat. Do you think Nature is trying to tell us something?

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