Cheese diplomacy and desserts


Although I’m sure it’s been the source of family feuds, nothing brings people together like food.

Armenian engineer and activist Artush Mkrtchyan knows the power of food and is using what he calls “cheese diplomacy” to bridge relations with people in the Turkish town of Kars, just 45 miles from Mkrtchyan’s hometown of Gyumri.

Dairy producers in each country started exchanging cheese recipes, coordinated by Mkrtchyan, and consequently created “Caucasian cheese” now made and marketed by cheese makers in Armenia, Turkey and nearby Georgia. The small cheese makers ignore the national borders that have been officially closed for 20 years.

The cheese diplomacy has worked at a level where formal diplomatic relations have failed. This informal connection led to the creation of the Caucasus Association of Cheese-Makers.

Common business and economic interests, fostered through cooperation, are an alternative way to promote peace in the conflict-riddled region.

Behold, the power of cheese.

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Say hello to DairyUS

I was excited to hear last year that the National Milk Producers Federation was assuming responsibility for the licensing and use of the REAL seal from the United Dairy Industry Association.

You should all recognize the seal, that little milkdrop-shaped red logo that identifies a product as made with real dairy ingredients. It was one of the most highly recognizable brand logos back in the day, but, in my opinion, has dropped off the charts of consumer recognition.

I was hoping, and still am, that new blood at the helm will inject new life into the logo.

But I saw last week that a contest to name a cartoon REAL seal character yielded this winning name: DairyUS.

My reaction? Gulp.

DairyUS equals Darius, I’m guessing, but in print it looks like the latest dairy farmer organization.

Runner-up was Milkdrop and third place was Roscow (my favorite of the three). Since the voting was online, I’m guessing Kathryn from Iowa who suggested the winning name had a substantial social media backing to stuff the ballot box.

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Speaking of dairy…

File this one under “how do they get funding for research like this?” Eating different types of cheese before you go to bed could trigger different types of dreams, but not nightmares.

The British Cheese Board conducted a study with the Sleep Research Medical Research Centre at the University of Surrey. Two hundred volunteers participated in the study that hoped to dispel the old wives’ tale that eating cheese before bed will trigger restless sleep. (Never heard that one; must be a British thing.)

Seventy-two percent said they slept very well after eating a cheese bedtime snack, thank you very much.

Of the 67 percent who remembered their dreams, survey organizers said, certain cheese types seemed to spawn certain dreams.

Want to dream of film star Johnny Depp or other celebrities? Eat some Cheddar. Stay away from Stilton blue cheese, which participants, especially women, said gave them “bizarre” dreams.

Your best bet? Cheshire, a famous British white crumbly cheese, or Red Leicester, a hard cheese like Cheddar. They gave half of the participants dreamless nights of peaceful slumber.

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Not just for appetizers

And since I’m on a cheese kick, I was ecstatic to learn that cheese is gaining favor as a dessert in the U.S. (In my world, cheese reigns in all courses, and at all meals.)

We’re not just talking Mascarpone (rhymes with Al Capone), either. Many chefs are using blue cheese, chocolate cheese, or are simply pairing cheeses with fruits, jams or honey. And who hasn’t had a slice of Cheddar cheese on a piece of apple pie? (Hey, the Midwest was trendy before trendy was cool!)

“I think we’re early in the American public’s artisan cheese experience,” Rick Lafranchi, of the Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. in California, told Cheese Market News. “I have no doubt the dessert category presents a significant future opportunity.”

Hmm. What cheese pairs with pumpkin pie?


By Susan Crowell




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