Any French person proud of their own cheese tradition is not going to like what I’m about to say. They may even turn directly to find internet sites which will prove I’m wrong. Nevertheless, I’m going to say it: There are more types of English cheese (around 700) than French cheese (around 400)! These cheeses range from the blue cheeses (e.g stilton – similar to French Rochefort), to soft creamy cheeses (eg Somerset brie), to the the hard cheeses (eg double Gloucester). In fact, so hard is this last cheese that every year it is thrown down a hill and chased by ‘cheese rolling specialists’.
Contrary to this annual pastime, I personally like my Double Gloucester cheese laid in thin strips across a chunk of organic granary bread and covered in a layer of taste-bud tingling Branston pickle. It goes down especially well when accompanied by a pint of fine English ale and eaten beneath the oak beams of an old English country pub whilst the locals are enjoying a game of skittles or darts in the corner and the barmaid is full of charming smiles.
The total blend of flavours contained within this savoury Double Gloucester snack faithfully reproduce the smells and tastes of the rural Gloucestershire countryside. That is to say, bite into this morsel of culinary delight, close your eyes, and imagine the winding, muddy lanes bordered by great clumps of nettles; the damp and soggy fields; the woods covered in cold mist; the villages, quietly ticking-by amid their old stone walls with the sounds of village-shop doorbells ringing and the steady clip of garden sheers; the tall church towers overlooking green grassy graveyards with bells tolling out for miles around; the ruddy-faced farmer talking lambing tales in the thatched-cottaged pub with his tractor parked outside. That’s what comes to mind when I eat my Double Gloucester sandwich, anyway.
Yet some people have a completely different use for the cheese. As I mentioned above, they chase it down a hill! Daft buggers!
This is the annual cheese rolling event on Cooper’s Hill in the village of Brockworth in Gloucestershire – an event that has been occuring for at least 200 years. The cheese, weighing around 7 lbs, can reach speeds of up to 70 mph. It is released and one second later a race to catch it begins. No-one does, but first person to the bottom wins the race. The hill is steep, with a gradient of 1:2 and in places 1:1. Many accidents occurs from twisted ankles to broken legs and concussion. Hence, ambulances wait at the bottom of the hill to take casualties to hospital.
They must be crazy! But England would not be England without such crazy customs. Have you got any crazy customs where you come from?