During our recent visit to M. Cheesemonger’s hometown in Normandy, we were able to escape from his father’s Grande Fête preparations (more on that later) to visit some of the local cheese makers and farmers that make this region the dairy capital of France. Since I had been charged with organizing the Grande Fête cheese platter, our plan was to find some excellent local cheeses. The sun shone warmly and puffy clouds drifted overhead as we wound our way through the verdant countryside.
As a newcomer to the North Eastern US, I was excited to be part of the build-up surrounding of one of New England’s largest annual events and cheese competitions, The Big E.
The Big E – otherwise known as the Eastern States Exposition – takes place over a two week period near Springfield in Massachusetts, featuring a vast array of exhibits and shows ranging in theme from Agricultural and food related (including an area for New England Cheesemakers) through to a Circus, Equine competitions and rock concerts plus a whole lot more.
Late last year, the cheese competition organizer, Elena Hovagimian, contacted me to ask if I would like to be one of the judges. I readily accepted, pleased to have the chance to learn more about some of the best that New England has to offer.
In sharing stories with fellow cheese dorks, I’m starting to realize the extreme measures to which people will resort for a fix. I’m not talking smuggling French cheese past U.S. customs in one’s underwear, although that’s certainly admirable.
No, I’m talking about situations that are perhaps a bit humiliating, if not outright pathetic. I seem to find myself in these situations with some regularity, in part because I’m frequently on the road (here or overseas) for my work as a food and travel journalist. The fact that I’m lactose intolerant just adds to the fun.