In ordinary circumstances, the realisation that the country’s most delicious cheeses are under threat would be front-page foodie news. It’s testament to the seriousness of the current situation that well-aged cheddars and ripe stiltons are nowhere near the top of most people's priority list.
However, just because the entirety of society as we know it could be about to collapse, it doesn’t change the fact that these are dark times to be a cheesemonger. All over the world, artisanal producers are struggling as their customer base switches from regular browsing to strict bulk buying. Some are trying to adapt their business model accordingly. Others are trying to fight back.
On behalf of its many members around the country, the British Specialty Cheese Association recently issued a cry for help. Writing on its website, the organisation explained:
“British Speciality Cheese Makers need your support. Always made by hand and of milk from local herds, cheesemaking is a time honoured craft. However, the national crisis has put untold sales pressure on specialist cheese makers; our restaurants, cafes and pubs, many of the local shops, farmers markets and supermarket deli counters closed overnight leaving cheese maturing stores over filled, an abundance of spring milk with nowhere to go and much fewer orders than usual forthcoming. Very few specialist cheesemakers can sustain this pressure for long so the future of specialist cheesemakers is in your hands.”
Check out this sneak peek inside Camden's "The Cheese Bar":
Their request was a simple one - source as much as much niche cheese as you can and eat up. In order to make this mission as straightforward as possible, the SCA has provided an interactive map, described as the “holy grail” of cheeses, listing producers and links to allow you to buy their cheese directly.
The SCA isn’t the only cheese board on the lookout for its members. Manufacturers in France have spearheaded the “Fromagissons” movement, created to “Encourage the consumption of traditional cheeses shunned by consumers since containment, and avoid as much as possible stocks in dairies”. These may be scary times for the cheese industry, but there are plenty of people still fighting the good fight.