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Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Visit to Wallace & Grommit’s Cheese Shop

Recommendations from two master chefs

Despite how much we enjoyed touring the shops and seeing what the local vendors offered for sale, we had not stopped in the English village of Hawes because it was market day.  That was merely a bonus.  So after we saw all that was on offer, we climbed a flight of stairs, walked up the slope of a park, and entered the Wensleyday Creamery, where Wallace’s beloved Wensleydale Cheese is made.

We could have eaten lunch in their cafeteria, but we had packed a lunch that morning, having planned to picnic later in Askrigg.  We could have paid a few pounds and toured their factory, but the line seemed long, and the air a little warm and dense from the people walking down the glass-lined hallways.  (Besides, we’d already seen the cheese-making process at the Tillamook factory in Oregon).  So we divided our time there in two areas: 1) the gift shop, and 2) the tasting room.

The gift shop was filled with all kinds of goodies, from prepackages foods, to candy and souvenirs.  We particularly liked the foot-high figurines from the Wallace & Grommit movies and shorts.  I was tempted to take both characters home with me, as well as the skiing Cooker from "A Grand Day Out."  In the end, reason prevailed, and after purchasing a few smaller items, my wife pulled me into the tasting room.

There, we found plates stacked high with little rectangles of cheese, all cut by an employee who continually pulled out large rounds of cheese from a refrigerator to replenish the plates.  Three tables had been set in a U-pattern, so he didn't have to squeeze through the crowd as he replaced each plate before it was even close to being empty.  Shoppers hovered around the tables, moving back and forth as their taste buds directed, their eyes pressing closed at times as they savored the rich flavors and textures.  We joined the line as it flowed past Wensleydale cheese made in an astonishing mix of flavors, from Smoked to Blue to varieties mixed with Ginger or fruits.  They also offered other types of cheese, including Cheddar and Double Gloucester. 

Saying “No” to such rich, flavorful cheese was hard to do, so in the end we bought three small rounds: a smoked Cheddar, a mature Cheddar, and a Wensleydale with Apricots.  We also picked up a book of recipes recommended by Wallace & Grommit.  I’m not sure if we really needed to eat anything else that day, for we left with our stomachs full, and our taste buds rejoicing.  Knowing that we would take the cheese with us, to enjoy back in San Diego, was a bonus.

According to Wikipedia, filmmaker Nick Park selected Wensleydale as one of Wallace’s favorite cheeses because he thought the name would be interesting to animate.  Later, his company, Aardman Animations, forged links with Wensleydale Creamery.  Thanks to the affiliation, the struggling Creamery regained its commercial feet, and helped make it the tourist attraction it is today.  This reminded people in England of the unique and pleasing flavor of a cheese made only in that part of Yorkshire.  This is what really good Fiction does.  It reminds us of all that’s good, important, and worth preserving.  In so doing, it makes everything new. 

Dragon Dave

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