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Gold rush opportunists, hippie goat ladies, Latino newcomers: California entrepreneurs dream of cheese

By admin / Published on Friday, 15 Dec 2017 06:49 AM / No Comments / 246 views

The idea for Humboldt Fog goat’s milk cheese first came to Mary Keehn in a dream. She fell asleep on an airplane and awoke with a vivid picture in her mind of how the cheese looked. And then she set out to realize her vision – in the process, helping to launch a late-20th-century American renaissance in artisan cheese-making.

But the dream didn’t come from nowhere. In Keehn’s telling, the revelation occurred on a transatlantic flight home from France, where she’d gone in 1992 as a young cheese-maker looking for new inspiration by tasting traditional French cheeses and visiting their makers. Indeed, a wheel of Humboldt Fog melds elements of two iconic French cheeses, with a Morbier-like ribbon of ash running through chalky paste more reminiscent of a soft-ripened Valançay. The result is thoroughly distinct.

The story of Keehn’s Cypress Grove Cheese is a quintessential telling of the California dream. Not merely an entrepreneurial success story, it is a narrative of self-reinvention. The California dream is about moving west (or, as in Keehn’s case, farther north, to Humboldt County from Sonoma) to start anew, seeking not so much to get rich quick as to envision and inhabit a new identity. Cypress Grove’s heroine embodies characteristics that could describe the American artisan cheese industry as a whole: scrappy, innovative and unapologetically indebted to European tastes and know-how – condensing themes that emerged through anthropological research I conducted across the United States for my book, “The Life of Cheese.”