Last Christmas, I worked as a cheese monger at Neal’s Yard Dairy. Most of you must be familiar with the fantastic job the company has been doing to improve British cheese. However, many customers still asked for French cheese and were looking for brie, camembert or a piece of comté. With my relatively strong French accent, customers thought I could recommend the perfect cheese for them.
The problem is that Neal’s Yard Dairy only sells British and Irish cheeses. Whilst most of them happily followed my recommendation to get a gooey Tunworth or a creamy piece of Baron Bigod, I could tell that some were not convinced and wanted “the real thing”. It seemed that for them, imported French cheese was associated with better quality… or maybe it just sounded more chic?
Could it be a complex of inferiority? Or a genuine lack of awareness? Whilst there are many great products and inspiring producers in the UK, many of them do not necessarily get the attention and the exposure they deserve.
The French have done a great job at supporting local producers and helping them to market their products. With a strong emphasis on the importance of the terroirs – from Noirmoutier potatoes to Agen prunes. Today, French consumers are the ones driving the change asking for these local products and now even supermarkets are heavily promoting local producers and Made in France products.
It is up to us to encourage the same dynamic in the UK, one food basket at a time, and to support local producers, especially in troubled times like now. So, next time you do your grocery shopping why don’t you go for Kent apples rather than their New Zealand equivalent or try out a delicious St Jude instead of St Marcellin?
Text and Images (C) Adrien Giacchero
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