Yak cheese with that?

Yak cheese is big news.

Having just returned from a week in Italy where he commiserated with thousands of farmers and chefs, local poultry king Jim Reichardt (the Liberty Duck guy) gave BiteClub the download on this year’s big event–which included a plan to boost imports of Tibetan yak’s milk cheese.

(Lost in translation? Terra Madre, as uber-foodies will be glad to discuss at length, is a conflagration of great minds from around the world thinking in unison about food, farming, pesticides, indigenous cultures and all manner of issues regarding what we put in our mouths. Think of it as the UN of Edibility.)

Now, in the whole scheme of things, what’s so important about yak milk’s cheese? Plenty, if you’re a Tibetan yak farmer. In recent years, the surplus of milk from their herds has been aged into gourmet cheese for the European and US market. That, in turn means some cold, hard cash for Tibetan herders who view indoor plumbing as exotic. And that, in turn, means a little help for a 10,000 year-old nomadic culture which has fallen on some pretty hard times.

So, a little idea (yak milk cheese) is actually a pretty big idea: Preserving native cultures. Literally.

Other Terra Madre 2006 issues: The increasing prevalence of genetically modified foods; how to feed millions of indigenous people who are losing their crops and food culture; or why it might be a good idea to process (ie: slaughter) drought-stricken animals in Africa as a valuable food source for people. Phew.

Part of the whole Slow Foods movement, Terra Madre is all about bringing together different cultures and viewpoints, cultivating ideas, letting them germinate, and hopefully having some sort of impact on what we put on our plates.

Don’t be surprised, then, if you get an earful from one of the 25 local folks (mostly chefs and farmers) who went with Reichardt to the conference and are now pretty much brimming with ideas and inspiration on how to change how we eat.

Just offer them a little yak cheese while they do.

Learn more about Terra Madre http://www.terramadre2006.org/terramadre/welcome_eng.lasso

Learn more about Yak cheese http://www.cowsoutside.com/yak_cheese.html

Order Yak cheese