Updated: May 15
My love, some might call it obsession, for cheese started as a teenager with a Saturday job at ‘The Cheese Shop’ on Kensington Gardens. Brightonians amongst you might remember it…Real Patisserie breads and pizza slices stacked high in the windows, wall to wall wooden shelves full of delicious wines and chutneys and then fridges full to the brim with fantastic cheese from across Europe – Tomme de Chevre, Mozzarella di Buffala, Manchego, Gjetost… Some Saturdays Peter, the owner affectionately known as ‘The Cheese Man’, might put a whole Gorgonzola or a Brie de Meaux onto the counter, so ripe we served them with a spoon!
It was whilst working in ‘The Real Eating Company’ Cheese Shop on Palmeira Square, another wonderful haven for the deli-lover, that I fell in love with British Cheese - Barkham Blue, Tunworth, Golden Cross – my mouth is watering even just to think about these delicious farmhouse cheeses.
But production of these beloved British cheeses has been put into jeopardy during the lockdown. With restaurant and pub doors firmly closed, small cheese producers have seen their sales fall off a cliff. Soft and blue cheeses are particularly at risk as they have a shorter shelf life and these are the cheeses most likely to grace restaurant cheese boards and deli counters. But hard cheeses are at risk too as store rooms reach capacity. As the lockdown panic buying and stockpiling mentality set in, farmhouse cheese fell off our shopping lists so even those few producers whose cheeses are stocked in supermarkets have seen a sharp fall in sales. Producers are finding themselves throwing gallons and gallons of milk down the drain.
It is really sad to think that we may lose some of Britain’s cheese heritage for good to this virus, with business and livelihoods going down the drain with their milk. So what can we do to help? Neal’s Yard Dairy, supported by Jamie Oliver, have done an amazing job of highlighting the problem and supporting these producers through the sale of their ‘Save British Cheese’ selection. But we also have some fantastic cheese producers in Sussex who you can buy online from including High Weald Dairy and The Traditional Cheese Dairy. Or if you are visiting the farm shop this weekend, be sure to grab a wedge of delicious, local cheese! Save the Cheese, please x