Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cheese knowledge

The trade fair here in Chiapas included producers from all the states of Mexico.

Many states brought cheeses to showcase and some of them were excellent. After judging my share of Queso de Cuadro, I was asked by all the producers from the other states to taste their cheese and judge it too.

This was particularly difficult as I felt that I was expected to tell them that their cheese was excellent, so that they could use my endoresement to sale more. I, however, believe that they will benefit more from a honest assesment.

Bob Farrand during the briefing to the judges at the WCA asked us to do two things. 1) to not judge any cheese against another cheese, but to judge it against the best that cheese could be, and 2) to offer positive feedback on how to improve each cheese.

I tried to do the same here and explain to people that taste is subjective and that I was only tasting to offer advice on how to improve each cheese. Some producers took my recommendations really hard and replied that either I had no way to know about their cheese or that I was too young and from the "capital" (from Mexico City).

Both these arguments go to the core of cheese judging. This practice is to most people highly suspicious, even more when it is done by someone percieved as foreign. That was not just the case here, but also in the Canary Islands were some of the reporters from the local press questioned how someone like me or the judge from Japan or South Africa could know anything about European cheese.

I agree with the suspicion, but also think that most of these type of comments are not against our expetise or passion for cheese, but our position as non-cheesemakers.

Cheesemakers devote their lives to making wonderful products and some distrust non-cheesemakers. They are right to question judgements, as I too would like them to distrust recommendations that could cheapen their products. However, turning a blind eye to informed opinions also causes cheeses to stop developing and become the bland commercialized cheese that some DO cheeses have turned into.

I am writing this post as I leave Chiapas and hope to be here next year to judge the development of the cheeses that advice. I am humbled by the opportunity to be here and intend to keep learning on cheese, so that my recommendations are always more informed.

PS. The winners of this year taste will be announced soon. Once this has happen I will share the names and companies that presented excellent cheese so people can seek them when in Chiapas.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

No comments:

Post a Comment