In the mountains of Greece, a home cheesemaker continues an ancient tradition, crafting a cheese called touloumotiri.
The walls in Thomae Kattei's tiny cheesemaking room are damp and dark,blackened by nearly a century of wood smoke. Permeated by the earthy smell of goat’s and sheep’s milk, the place is impeccably clean. The small, dark-haired Thomae smiles shyly as she talks and stirs milk in an immense copper kettle perched over a single propane burner on the floor. Dressed in a blue-plaid shift dress, wool knee-highs, and a bright blue calico apron, the 67-year-old woman could have easily stepped from the pages of an early-twentieth-century chronicle on Greece. Her life on this mountain farm, where electricity is a relative newcomer and cell phone service still does not exist, is as removed as it can be from the rest of the modern-day country with its dazzling tourist destinations and its economic woes.
Overcoming the odds, one man creates his dream cheese
The ferry ride from West Seattle to Vashon Island takes just 15 minutes, but from the moment you disembark, you’re in a different world. The sleepy bedroom community, while inhabited by many tech-industry commuters, is a bucolic place, dotted with produce stands and swaths of Douglas fir forest. There’s a handful of working agricultural properties on the island, including tiny Kurtwood Farms, a one-man, four-cow dairy.
Founders and owners of Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods
When we started, Peggy was at one end, running the kitchen. She had cooked at Chez Panisse for 17 years, so she was making some really nice, affordable picnic snacks. I was learning how to make cheese at the other end . . . fresh, uncomplicated cheese. We didn’t push too hard.
This article appeared in our Autumn 2010 issue, and it is available here for download as it appeared in the magazine. All material is the property of culture magazine and may not be reprinted or republished without permission.
Photos by Frankie Frankeny
Q: I’m a lifelong cheese lover, but I’ve just been told by my doctor that I need to consume a low-sodium diet. Does this mean the end of interesting cheese for me?
“When you’re eating the rind of a cheese, you’re consuming more microbial cells than there are stars in the sky.”
That bit of hyperbole comes from Rachel Dutton, a biologist and self-described microbe fan working at Harvard Medical School. I met her at the “Science of Cheese” talk held at the MIT Museum’s annual science festival, where her work was described as “groundbreaking” by Vince Razionale, the cheese buyer for Cambridge-based Formaggio Kitchen.
While most of Rachel’s career centers around nonfood topics—she’s currently finishing a PhD thesis on protein folding in the bacterium that causes tuberculosis—she’s made it her personal mission to educate the public on the beneficial properties of bacteria and fungi. That’s what led her to cheese. Most of us notice microbes only when they’re making us ill, but cheese is a universally beloved product of microbial action.
A scrapbook of period package art recalls
the way we were.
Our photo essay originates in England, circa 1957. It was there and then that a colorful package of cheese inspired one person (unknown) to start a collection of dairy labels, neatly organized in a scrapbook. His or her now-vintage collection—found orphaned on eBay—is a virtual journal of cheese branding in the mid-20th century.
Reproduced here, these graphic labels look just as the originals would have if you could step back in time, back to a day when bright, hand-rendered package art was a novelty and innocence wasn’t, and long before a blitz of color-soaked multimedia outlets emerged all around us. Once upon this time, artists illustrated a label to tell a story, evoke a feeling, with a single bright image. For many people such labels were the only artwork they saw from week to week.
As a companion piece to our Fall 2010 article profiling Kurt Timmermeister and his dream to make the lush Dinah's Cheese, we're sharing these video segments taped while Kurt was building his underground cheese cave at Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island, WA.
Videos were shot and edited by Matthew J. Lawrence. Also seen are Luke Sheard and Eloise Lawrence.
Learn more about Dina's Cheese and enter the Centerfold Club to order a taste for yourself.
Hello. My name is Anya Firisenand I am ten years old. I have liked cheese since I was very young. When I was very little I liked fresh Parmigiano chunks that my parents cut for me. I still do. I also eat Parmigiano that I grate right there on top of pasta. My parents do not even consider buying macaroni and cheese that comes from the box. Instead they buy fresh cheddar cheese and make macaroni and cheese from scratch. This helped me become a cheese person.
This age-old fruit is a timeless match for cheese
Whether fresh or dried, figs have long been prized for their promise of sweetness. Of all fruits, they contain the most sugar, which may explain why the ancients honored the naturally sweet fig and its seeds as aphrodisiacs and symbols of abundance, understanding, and love. Can we say the same about a raspberry? In reverence for the fig’s history and perennial friendship with cheese, we’ve assembled an array of products that reveal another reason why we’re big on the fig: versatility. Baked, roasted, stewed, dipped, or stuffed, this fruit can take many forms, each one a perfect fit with cheese.
Glazed & Roasted Figs