I like to think I know this place.
You see I have a bit of a thing for wine and food, and have made it my business since returning here (about 12 years ago) to get to know as many wine and food producers in the North Canterbury area as possible. They are my kind of folk.
I originally helped to set up the Waipara Valley Farmers Market, and through it met some amazing small-scale growers and producers of food. I’ve also been involved with wine on both a regional and national basis, as well as having our own label. This has allowed me some insight into how NZ wine ticks, and more specifically the foibles and challenges of growing grapes in North Canterbury.
We count a professional chef or few amongst our friends and know a goodly number of very talented home cooks.
But yesterday I met a woman who has lived down the road (and around a corner or two) from me for at least the last 10 years.
She makes the most incredible cheese from raw goat and sheep’s milk. She’s been doing this for at least the last 10 years.
I’ve seen her shopping at many a Farmers Market and we have friends in common, but until yesterday evening I had know idea who she really was.
Like some type of telephone box superhero this everyday woman presented a table full of cheese that totally blew my mind.
They were delicious cheeses. Everything from a ewe’s milk Manchego style cheese to a bloomy rind goats cheese, a soft ewe’s cheese made with thistle rennet to a goats milk rolled in ash.
I met her goats.
I met her sheep.
And then she gave me her cheese. Because it’s made from raw milk she can’t sell it. She can’t barter or swap it. So she gave me her cheese. For good karma. ‘Pay it forward’ she said.
The world is often a tough place. Farming food and wine is NOT the ‘good life’ it might appear to be. But we do it because there are good people here.
Turns out I’ve been living nearby to one for quite some time.
Tis the season for baby cheeses after all…..