It’s funny where blog reading will take you. In addition to cheese, I am really fascinated by the geographies of food and how it links to place, how people see their environment and how this can be used in design and art. One blog I regularly read is Edible Geography. Recent posts included mapping linkages between cupcakes and gangs, as well as fascinating post on the meaning and information that can be imparted by wine labels. This got me thinking about cheese and the different approach to information-sharing that occurs here.
Looking online, I found an interesting collection of vintage cheese labels that was originally published in Culture magazine and reproduced in the Design Observer . I’ve included one below, which I hope they don’t mind.
Picture: Culture Magazine/Design Observer
What is interesting is that most of these labels are for processed and single size cheeses. They are really a form of advertising, for attracting buyers on the supermarket shelves. There is nothing wrong with this, but it contrasts significantly with many artisan cheeses, which tend to have much more limited labelling. Given cheese, just like wine, is in many ways shaped by the area where is comes from and that labelling/controlled title can be hotly debated, the minimalist approach makes cheese quite unique.
Most cheeses I buy have no labels or at least none that you can take home with you. Much of this probably practical, given lots of cheese is purchased as parts of the whole, as well as the desire by to see the cheese in its naked state – there are few things more lovely that a full display of different cheeses. But in some ways, the removal of labelling creates a central need for someone who can then share the cheeses with you. Cheese buying, especially for those of us with limited knowledge, can be exciting but overwhelming. Just a name can mean nothing, so a good cheese monger is essential to explain what it is, where it’s from, and how old it is. An unhelpful cheese monger can mean that questions are not asked and good cheeses are missed.