Under blue skies and with the air filled with the aromas of formaggio, the eighth edition of Cheese was inaugurated today in a central piazza of Bra, Slow Food's birthplace in northern Italy. Taking a break from their stands filling the surrounding streets, artisan cheesemakers, herders, cheesemongers and affineurs from the Slow Food network across Europe and the world gathered for the award that recognizes their tremendous efforts to maintain traditions in times of mass-production.
This year the Cheese Resistance Award goes to four herders and cheesemakers with very different backgrounds, who all share a desire to continue with an age-old craft and to protect and promote their local area. From a young French shepherd who works in the Pyrenees to an Albanian cheesemaker working in southern Italy, the award recipients were recognized for their outstanding contribution and commitment to quality cheese and the preservation of authenticity, tradition and taste.
"We need pride in production, pride in farmers. Farmers, cheese agers, herders must be respected like other professions. Only this new economy will get us out of the crisis. We need new paradigms, new politics, new civil society, new respect for common goods, new ideas," said Slow Food President Carlo Petrini. "Perhaps most importantly we must ensure young people return to the land, and that the knowledge of quality sustainable dairy production is passed on."
Winners of the Slow Food Cheese Resistance Award 2011:
Denis Fourcade is a 27-year-old shepherd from the Bearne Mountain Pastures Cheeses Presidium who tends his flocks on the French slopes of the western Pyrenees. Unlike many young people, he has decided to stay in the mountains and keep making traditional cheeses.
Maddalena Aromatario comes from a shepherding family in Abruzzo but worked as a teacher for several years before the mountains called her back and she started making cheese with her brother Mariano. Their cheeses include Presidium Castel del Monte Canestrato as well as goat's and sheep's milk cheeses made with vegetable rennet.
Vullnet Alushani arrived in Puglia in southern Italy from Albania as an illegal immigrant and worked as a tomato-picker before being hired by a historic producer of Podolico Caciocavallo. Now he makes extraordinary cheeses and cares for 80 Podolica cows and 40 Garganica goats.
Celestino Lussiana, 77, from Piedmont, has dedicated his life to his cows and goats, preserving the tradition of making Cevrin, a Slow Food Presidium since 2000. Now his four children are continuing his valuable work.
"They are artisans who refuse the shortcuts of modernity, despite the hard work, risks and isolation that brings," said Roberto Burdese, president of Slow Food Italy. "In short, they resist. They resist also for us, keeping alive an irretrievable heritage of knowledge and protecting the environment and animal welfare."
Cheese is taking place over the next four days, September 16-19.
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