The Big Cheese

The biennial event that brings Slow Food’s network of artisan dairy producers, cheese mongers, herders and experts to the streets of Bra – a historic cheese aging center for northwestern Italy and home to the association’s headquarters – once again attracted hoards of visitors and animated the city for four days this September. An estimated 160,000 people came to enjoy Cheese 2011 and to learn more about what Slow Food Italy President Roberto Burdese, called “the most beautiful world of food”. Not a spare seat was to be found at the dozens of Taste Workshops, seminars and dinners that took place while musicians, giant snails, theatrical workshops and curving queues of people waiting for street food and other cheesy delights vied for space on the streets.

Among the visitors were many young people and families, with over 400 children participating in the Cheese Bimbi (cheese kids) activities. One quarter of the people who became members of Slow Food during the event were under 30, showing that the numerous participation this year of young herders and cheesemakers was matched by a presence of young adults with a passion for the work of their contemporaries. Affineur Sue Lonky, from Atlanta in the United States, commented that “it gives her hope” to see how many interested young people were wandering around the event. “It’s been one of the best experiences of my career,” she said.

Among the hundreds of producers offering tastes and selling thousands upon thousands of kilos of cheese, were representatives of the 71 Slow Food cheese Presidia. Seven of these were in Bra for the first time – new Presidia projects that were officially inaugurated during the event – and were struck by their first experience of Cheese.

“It was a surprise,” admitted Ciminà Caciocavallo Presidium producer Pasquale Romeo from Calabria, who sold out their entire stock of 600 kilograms of caciocavallo in the first two days. “It’s the first time we’ve taken part in an event this important, and I won’t pretend I’m not very satisfied. We’ve learned a lot, strengthened relationships, made new contacts. We were particularly struck by the interest shown by visitors. As well as buying our product they also wanted to learn how it was made and hear our story.”

Several of the initiatives organized during Cheese 2011, like the open-air concerts, the program of events at the Literary Café (all sold out) and the meetings in the Biodiversity Space, were all used as opportunities for fundraising for Slow Food’s Thousand Gardens in Africa project. Thanks to Cheese, another 33 food gardens will be created.

View the gallery of images of the event on our facebook page.

Read more about some of the highlights of Cheese 2011, and view mini-galleries on the below links:

The Good Life?: Young herders discuss the future of herding
The Goat Brigades: Cheeses made by a large Macedonian cooperative of shepherds.
The Battle for Raw Milk: an international campaign website launched on Sunday during a panel discussion on the situation in various countries
Extreme Measures for Biodiversity: overview of the discussion on how to halt the drastic decline in domestic species.
Labels that Tell a Story: a new approach to evaluating quality and expressing it on product labels.
Cheese Heroes Take the Stage: Cheese opens with the “Cheese Resistance” award to recognize outstanding artisan cheesemakers.
Grow! at Cheese: the new Oxfam campaign is presented with Balkan Presidia producers.
Taste, Learn, Discover at Cheese :Slow Food education activities let adults and children challenge their sensory intellect and discover hands-on the world of food and dairy.

Milks, Crafts, Places: Cheesemakers talk about the milks, crafts and places that make their cheeses unique.
Cheese Tots: photos of the kids taste education event ‘Cheese Kids’.
Seven Treasures to Preserve: photogallery and story of the seven new dairy Presidia projects launched at the event.

See you at Cheese 2013!

  • Did you learn something new from this page?
  • yesno