Britain, this little old island, long the subject of international mockery for our supposedly unrefined cuisine, now produces over 1,100 varieties of artisan cheese.
That is – you magnificent cheddar-munching, chutney-smearing Poms – twice as many as the French. Long hailed as the cheese kings of the world, France only offers a miserly selection of 550 artisan options. We, meanwhile, have been churning out the good stuff. ‘Artisan’ cheeses are typically made by hand and according to traditional methods, and any cheeses that are mass produced or made mechanically do not qualify.
New, creative cheesemaking has boomed in recent years, with British professionals honing their craft in a market now worth £3 billion a year in the UK. Edward Hancock, founder of online cheesemonger Cheesegeek, explained to The Times that the abolition of the Milk Marketing Board in the 1990s paved the way for a remastering of old cheese-making skills. “The dairy industry is facing desperate challenges, but these in turn provide opportunities for the cheese industry. The key dynamic here is the price of milk,” Hancock added.
But, my fellow Brit, our consumption must also rise. For across the channel, the average Frenchman consumes an average of 25 kilograms of cheese a year – approximately the weight of a six year old child, and, more pressingly, over twice as much as the average Brit.
This must be addressed. We must close the chasm of national embarrassment. British pasteurising pioneers have usurped French production; it is now the turn of the average citizen to unbotton their corduroys and poke another hole in their belt.
And in a year of national celebration, could this possibly be an opportunity for unity? For all his flaws, there can be no doubt that Boris Johnson knows the power of cheese. He understands its gravitational pull. He once uttered, surely on forever hallowed ground, “There is absolutely no one, apart from yourself, who can prevent you, in the middle of the night, from sneaking down to tidy up the edges of that hunk of cheese at the back of the fridge.” Where Charles De Gaulle fearfully queried, ‘How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?’, Boris could be the man to relish the chance to unite a nation, now with thousands of cheeses of its own.