Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blue Cheese and Liberal-Thinking Hemp Farmers

First impressions are funny things. Whether it’s your thoughts on cheese (like an old boss refusing to eat anything but plastic cheese due to some vestigial decision made about dairy) or your thoughts on that hippie across the road, we all make snap judgements.

I was at the Blackwattle Deli in Sydney’s Fish Markets (have you been there? Wow! That place is the biz-nay) and I picked up a wedge of Byron Bay Blue made right here in Australia by the Bangalow Cheese Company. And as I made the purchase, I felt it – that old familiar feeling. It was Judgemental Claire, and she was coming back.

The cheese cabinet at Blackwattle Deli.

Was this cheese made by some sort of dreadlocked, tie-dyed drifter in a makeshift yurt on the outskirts of Nimbin? Would it taste anything like a proper blue? Do hippies even
learn about colours in their backyard Steiner schooling system? Would it be…(gulp) pasteurised?

Hang the expense and stop being so judgey Claire. Let’s try it and see.

My first impression of this cheese is that it reminds me of Stilton, but that’s an unfair snap judgement to make too. It implies that any antipodean fare must be constantly compared to its more famous and more colonial forebears, and to do so denies the very Australianness of this cheese.

Yes, it has a complex flavour that is built-on-Stilton. Yes it is from a fairly young (comparatively) cheese producer and, yes, it will get better with age.

But you know what? Just like the stereotypical hemp farmer of Bangalow, it has a certain nutty charm. Like your average Bangalow hippie, its kind-of-gross external crust (formed after months spent in a dimly lit cupboard) is just another charm that makes you realise that this cheese has
been places dude, and no amount of corporate pseudo-bourgeois city talk from the “Man” will ever change the fact that this cheese is inextricably linked to its rural-pinko-commie upbringing. Or something.

Plus, the more you hang around this cheese, the more you get the munchies.

Mum might not be impressed that you didn’t bring Stilton home for dinner, and that your current selection is a little less Oxford-punting-champion and a little more Appalachian-goat-wool-expert. While one of them was reading the Classics at Cambridge, the other was sitting in a cupboard, beginning to smell. While one was selected for the Henley Polo Tournament, the other was sitting in a cupboard…beginning to smell.

But you know what? We’re out of the cupboard now and we’re happy mum. And we’ve got the tofu co-op up north to prove it.

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