I attribute my sense of taste directly from the soil and produce being grown in the state of Oregon. Growing up just 30 miles outside of Portland, I literally ate the land where so many delicious things are made. (Why do kids think eating mud pies are a good idea anyway?!) My first “job” was picking strawberries at the local farm where I definitely ate more than I picked but that crisp dollar I earned is forever emboldened with my tiny, pink fingerprints. We didn’t have money growing up but our sources for fresh produce were close by and readily available. There was no “local” movement. It’s just how things were and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had that experience.
My foray in to cheese, while unexpected, actually makes sense within the realm of my life. Cheese is such a deep connection to the land and so I rightfully feel in tune with the cheeses being made in the state of Oregon. This is why going to the Oregon Cheese Festival feels a bit like coming home.
Now, in its 15th year, the Oregon Cheese Festival has grown to epic heights. Two full days of a farmer’s market style event filled to the brim with cheese, beer, wine, other associated food products and a Friday night Cheesemaker’s dinner featuring producers from the area in a 5 course menu. This year, there was even an artisan hall which featured some handily made items from local crafters. It felt a bit like the Portland Saturday Market with a heavy focus on cheese. The festival has turned in to one of the biggest yearly events in Southern Oregon and it’s estimated that at least 5,000 people showed up on Saturday alone!
Crowds aren’t really my thing so I happily jumped behind a booth to help out with getting cheese to the masses. I thoroughly enjoy slinging cheese in a place that doesn’t have the access or knowledge base that more urban areas tend to have because it’s always a bit of a sociology experiment. Seeing what people are comfortable with, what questions they ask, and what they end up going home with are endlessly fascinating. Bringing the cheese to the people is what we cheesemongers do best!
For me, these events are about more than just getting to taste delicious things. It’s about honoring the makers, the land, and the community working so hard to bring food to the people. Being with farmers and producers is a humbling experience that I never take for granted. I consider it an honor and a privilege to get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
So tell me, how much do you love Oregon cheese? What’s your favorite?
Let me know in the comments!
A Certified Cheese Professional living the cheesy life.