In their last parting shot to the French, the Bush administration has increased the import duty on Roquefort cheese. Four days before leaving office, they raised the tariff from the current 100%, to a whopping 300%. This will effectively make Roquefort cheese unobtainable in the US. Why the change? This is supposedly in retaliation to the EU ban on hormone-treated beef. But why pick on Roquefort? Only 2% of it is shipped to the states, so it's unlikely the increased tariff will force the EU to end their ban. Perhaps the same brilliant minds that came up with Freedom Fries are at work here. Are they still upset that France opposed the US invasion of Iraq? That would explain higher tariffs on some French products, but why Roquefort cheese specifically?
No trade war is good without escalation, so French officials are considering what to do next. One member of Parliament plans on introducing a bill imposing duties on one of the largest American imports, Coca Cola. But things may get more interesting than that.
José Bové, a French farmer and trade activist promises more drastic and certainly more colorful action. Back in 1999, a McDonald's restaurant was set to open in Millau, France. Upset about corporate globalization of food and especially the use of hormone-treated beef, he and a group of union members and other activists set out to make a statement. Arriving just days before the grand opening of the McDonald's, they took their tools and machinery and completely dismantled the restaurant. Down to the ground. They then loaded the rubble on a truck, paraded it through town, and in a final act of defiance, dumped the whole load in front of city hall. For this act he was sentenced to 3 months in prison.
The same year he was involved in the WTO protests in Seattle and some years later was convicted for destroying various genetically engineered crops in Brazil and France, for which he also served time. In 2006 on a trip to Cornell University, he was stopped at JFK Airport and denied entry into the US because of these crimes. The US government certainly doesn't like troublemakers like José.
Unable to enter the US, it will be interesting to see what protest José comes up with. Perhaps he'll go back to his farm in Millau and ponder this question. The same farm where his sheep roam the pastures and José collects the milk to make Roquefort cheese.
posted by KRASK January 30, 2009 14:11 Politics comments (0)
Belgium may not be well known for its cheese, but they have a vast, rich history in l'art de la fabrication du fromage. They produce over 300 different varieties, as many as the French. But why don't they have the same notoriety? Most of the cheeses are made by small family farms and not exported outside the country. But how small is small?
My latest discovery is a cheese that comes from Catharinadal Kaasmakerij, a 100 cow dairy farm in the province of Limburg, in the north part of Belgium. There, brothers Bert and Peter along with other family members manage a 20 hectare grass and clover pasture and cheese making facilities. They make, sell, and distribute all their products from this farm.
As with all of Catharinadal's cheeses, Grevenbroecker (Achelse Blue) is made of unpasteurized cow's milk. It's a deliciously soft and buttery cheese with a slightly sharp blue taste. What makes this blue different is that the cheese isn't pierced to allow the mold (Penicillium Roqueforti) to enter. Rather, the mold is introduced to the individual curds, then pressed together. This is what gives the cheese its distinct marble-like appearance. Though the marbling isn't so apparent in this photo, Grevenbroecker is one of the most beautiful looking cheeses I've seen.
Catharinadal is open for tours and best of all, cheese making workshops! This is something I'll hopefully be writing about soon.
posted by KRASK January 19, 2009 7:56 Monday Cheese comments (0)
posted by KRASK January 11, 2009 22:11 Art comments (0)