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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I was in Medford, Oregon, recently. The circumstances were a bit trying, as we were dealing with a family emergency. We got past the emergency, and as a consequence had a bit of unscheduled free family time. This happened to coincide with the sixth annual Oregon Cheese Festival, a small but quite interesting event.

I am fond of cheese. My niece Briana is fond of cheese. She had a car, and we had free entry passes courtesy of her sister, Shayla. Such a cosmic confluence ought not to be ignored, and was not. We went to the sixth annual Oregon Cheese Festival, held at the Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon.

The event was organized by the Oregon Cheese Guild, a body of independent artisan cheese makers and others associated with the production and use of quality hand-crafted cheeses. I found it to be quite delightful, to experience so many cheeses in one place.

Some creameries purchased their milk from small farms managing carefully selected cows, goats, or both. Others managed their own herds. Quality was always the purpose behind such selectiveness. The cheeses were manufactured largely by hand at small creameries, such as Rogue Creamery. Production levels were low, the volume of cheese being rather limited in many cases.

Restaurants and chefs were in attendance, as well as members of the public who had a discriminating fondness for cheeses and related wines and beers. Many of the stalls were run by the owners of the creameries, wineries and breweries represented.

While some creameries were mature organizations producing cheese for generations, many were relatively new operations created by people leaving other modes of life to become artisans. I had the impression that many of them had been successful enough in their previous lives to indulge and invest in these artisan dreams. The quality of the cheeses I enjoyed certainly attested to their commitment, dedication and the successful outworking of their visions.

The romantic side of my imagination loves the vision of a successful engineer, lawyer or physician finding that life in their chosen field is not "all that," and taking their earned wealth out into meadows to fund the production of fabulous cheeses. Most would have to find an artisan from whom to learn in an apprenticeship of some kind, or else purchase that expertise and learn from the master they have hired.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have such dedication and commitment to a vision, to go forth and become an artisan. To earn the title "Master" in making cheese, or wine, or beer. In my younger days I did not experience such a vision, and I am not a successful professional with sufficient resources to purchase the experience here on the back-side of my life.

What I can do is appreciate the artisans, and enjoy the fruits of their long labors. I can enjoy beer, wine, cheese and many other delights produced by artisans. I can, even with my limited wealth, patronize artists in their work. I eat, I drink, and I live in this world.

Raise a glass. Fill your plate. Fill your life. Here's to the artisans!

1 comment:

Jerry said...

I'm envious of your experience -- I too am a cheese lover.

About twenty-five years ago an engineer left our organization to go off somewhere in Texas to become a wine maker. He wanted to be his own master and be able to produce something by which the quality could be measured. Judge me by what I physically produce, not by the quality of reports I write.

Yeah -- that takes guts and commitment. It makes me wonder exactly what it is that I produce.