Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ivy League Cheddar

Here's a description of my upcoming talk at the Princeton Club of New York, which members are paying $18 to attend. I hope it's worth their while! So far 30 or so people have signed up.

Cheddar Strikes Back:
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Traditional Cheddar
Cheddar cheese originated modestly and long ago as a local agricultural product in Somerset, England. Over the course of 800 years, Cheddar has become the most popular cheese type in the world, and its historical connection to England forgotten or overlooked. Food historian Diana Pittet will uncover Cheddar’s English origins and trace its globe-trotting travels to North America and to Australia and New Zealand. The Cheddar found in supermarkets is a far cry from the original farmstead product. This is in large part due to the industrialization of cheesemaking which began in Rome, N.Y., in 1851, and to the lack of regulations for using the name Cheddar. Unlike other world-class cheeses, its name was never protected, so almost any semi-hard, cow’s milk cheese can call itself Cheddar. Luckily, small cheesemakers throughout the world are preserving or reviving the traditional way to make Cheddar. During the course of Ms. Pittet’s talk, traditionally made Cheddars from around the world will be sampled.

Ms. Pittet has a master’s in food studies from New York University and is co-chair of the program committee of the Culinary Historians of New York. Described as “cheese possessed” by the New York Times, Ms. Pittet gave up her job teaching Latin in New York City to sell English farmstead cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. She wrote about the Americanization of English Cheddar for her master’s paper and has contributed to Oxford’s forthcoming
International Encyclopedia of Cheese.

I will be speaking about Cheddar again, but briefly and less formally, at the awesome alehouse hideaway,
Jimmy's 43, on Monday, November 26, at 7:30 p.m. My former food studies classmate, Amy, is organizing a tasting of Cheddars, apples, ciders, and ales, and she asked me, along with an apple expert, to say a little something.

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