I am easily confused this week. Off the back of last week’s lurgy, we launched straight into the festivities for my Other Half’s ‘big birthday with a zero on the end’. Six days later my liver is a pulsating rugby ball and my head is filled with cotton wool. The only milk product I really need is milk thistle. So exactly the sort of day that some cheese could sneak up and get me all geographically confused again. First of all there was Shropshire Blue, which I discovered wasn’t made in Shropshire and then there was Appleby’s and their gold-standard Cheshire cheese, which is made in Shropshire, not Cheshire. Stilton, of course, can’t be made in Stilton. And now, here is Old Winchester – which isn’t made in Winchester (although it is sort of nearby, I’ll give them that…)
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For most of us the festive season is not a time of frugality or healthy-eating. The winter as a whole makes us crave hearty, even stodgy, food but at Christmas we can really go to town. From meats to sauces, drinks to sweet treats, everything is about richness and feasting. I like to think that rather than just being a greedy oink, I’m responding to a primeval call; just as once our ancestors would have made the most of times of excess before they hunkered down in their caves, so too do we fill our boots in December. An ex-colleague of mine called it ‘laying down fat for the winter’ but then she was always a bit harsh.
Back in May, when I sat huddled in my thermal slanket, the hail battering against the windows, booking a place on a Cheese Walk in the City of London seemed like a good idea. Hopefully it would be a typical English day in July: overcast, fairly chilly and with a middling to high chance of a freezing downpour. So I admit that when the day dawned with the kind of heat that melts pigeon’s feet into the tarmac, it suddenly seemed less appealing. And throw in a tube journey and consuming large quantities of cheese and wine in the sun and the prospect started to feel more like appalling. But I take my role as intrepid cheese correspondent seriously (coupled with the fact I’d already shelled out for it upfront) and so I donned the Factor 30 and set forth valiantly.