Cheesed

I was born in and grew up in large cities–Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. With that big-city-supermarket-only detachment, I still look at farm life as a Disneyland attraction. City soft hands vs farm rough hands–same mentality.

But last week I, by chance, attended an Alpabzug held in a village in the Berner Oberland, Jungfrau Region, Switzerland.

…stars of the show…

Alpabzug und Chästeilet! says with exclamatory enthusiasm, we are having a party to celebrate our cows’ return home from the Alpine summer pastures and their cheese distribution.

The Alpabzug is a village festival where the people in the village come out on the main street to a parade of cows that welcomes the cows back home after their season up in the mountains. It is a jolly time.

The parade, led by trychlers (bell-ringers) finishes on the edge of town for a day long festival where people take photos of the cows’ head-dresses, enjoy each others’ company, jodelers, traditional music, eat chäsbraetli (raclette on bread) and buy the cheese made that year on the mountain.

…observing the decorated cows…

The parade through the village reached the festival ground where the residents gathered to appreciate the cows with a party.

…feted cows…

Village families make close relationships with the cows.

…head dresses…

Farmers make decorative head dresses for the cows.

…craftsmanship…

Decorative craftsmanship demonstrates human respect paid to the cows.

…raclette on ruchbrot…

Open-faced raclette cheese sandwiches enjoyed by more than a hundred people.

…party time…

The cheese from this summer has been brought for distribution to the village residents.

…un morceau s'il vous plait…

Each farmer has summer cheese displayed and ready for taste testing.

…good times…

This season’s cheese, muetschli, for sale at 22CHF/kg is sold alongside jellies and jams made from local fruits and berries.

I like how the production and consumption of food is an intimate part of village life. I am amazed that it is still occurring as a village event—not a tourist event.

In my idealistic interpretation, I see the people thanking the cows for the milk given to produce the cheese that will be eaten throughout the wintertime.

What is the way it is said—local food by and for local people. 🙂

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