Homemade Urban Cheese

DSCN2019Artisanal cheese for sale at a street fair in Alcalá de Henares, outside of Madrid.

If you read it in the Style Watch edition of People magazine, it must be true. Don’t be fooled by Hayden Panettiere’s smiling face and perfectly mussed hair on the cover. This month’s issue is hiding some serious anthropological evidence. There it is, right on page 121. What’s hot for 2013? Please tell us! Biking with your dog instead of carrying him, apparently. For drinks, sparkling liquor is the new prosecco! And for food, “homemade” is the new “artisanal.” The Williams-Sonoma DIY Goat Cheese Kit is featured, which promises light, tangy chevre in under an hour, made by YOU – a curious, environmentally-conscious organic shopper and farmer’s market devotee who has never milked a goat or thought about making cheese before, but hey, how hard could it be? It seems approachable, slightly exotic (you imagine those overall-clad, cheese-making farmers to be quite different from you), and oh-so-local. In other words, very, very marketable.

2013-02-04_09-20-54_974Trend alert! Homemade is the “new” artisanal for 2013, according to People Style Watch.

The DIY cheese kit idea got started by Claudia Lucero of Portland, Oregon when she wanted to get closer to her her food. She drove 15 miles to the nearest goat farm, bought fresh milk, experimented in her kitchen, and brought her cheesy homemade masterpieces to friends’ dinner parties. And just like that, the urban cheesemaking movement had a new follower. (Visit her at UrbanCheesecraft.) In his article “Betting the Farm: Is there an Urban Agriculture Bubble?” (the more scholarly companion to my magazine research), journalist David Lepeska nicely summarizes the larger trends at play here. “Over the past decade,” he writes, “a confluence of factors — a food movement calling for healthful, local produce over the troubling output of industrial farms; a vogue for DIY and back-to-the-land-ism, as well as for green, progressive urbanism; and a desperate search for new job-creation tools — has reanimated the green thumbs of urbanites.”

So if you want to be extra trendy this year (besides being a local farm supporter, urban activist, or someone who just likes specialty dairy products), head on over to your nearest farm stand, farmer’s market, dairy farm, or neighborhood goat, and buy yourself some local milk. Then head on back to your housemates, roommate, significant other, or beloved pet (who you should be biking with, not carrying, don’t forget) and make yourselves some nice, homemade cheese.

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