Bored of Islamic terror? – You’re not the only one

Ah, remember when Islamic terror used to have a sort of long drawn out tiresome spunky excitement to it – the bromide hash tags and slogans; the pathetic shows of unity; the facebooks and the tricolor; the self flagellation; the candle lit vigils; the celebrities; the Beatles songs and the pianos; the Katie Hopkins rants; we’re all in it together, this is a difficult time and so on.

Remember the predictable sequence of events and denials of reality in the aftermath:

First, you see bodies littered over some street or other, usually in France – no mention of the I word or the M word just yet: after all it could’ve been a pissed off Anglican priest or a crazy Buddhist off his meds. Then everyone takes to Facebook and social media to promote whatever silly slogan or avatar the moronic inferno has decided to adopt as its sentimental rallying cry. By now the politicians are out of bed and condemning the attack as ‘shocking and appalling’.

Then, no longer able to conceal the truth from the public despite their best efforts, the BBC et al. confirm the perpetrator was indeed a bloke called Mohammed. No use of the I word or M word yet. Next, more gory details start to filter through. Eyewitness accounts. Then ISIS claims the attack as a victory – good for Hollande so he now can say: “We’re going to hit ISIS where it hurts” – anything to sell the atrocity as a foreign rather than a domestic issue. Other world leaders condemn the attack.

Then we move to Act 2. Yes the psycho was indeed a Mohammed, as usual, but this doesn’t mean a jot. Because the BBC have found someone – possibly a cousin or some other acquaintance who tells them that he ate pork pies and never even went to church, sorry the Mosque. His family know fuck all as do the local community who say he was a quiet loner addicted to sex with himself. No mention of the I or M word yet. Breaking News: Mohammed had accomplices – probably also called Mohammed but possibly even Ahmed or Iqual (in any case immigrant names). No mention of the I or M word yet.

Next, the really boring bit Act 3 – the nothing to do with Islam phase. By now it is no longer possible to conceal the words Islam and Muslim from the public (at least when debating it – C4 News and the BBC will try to avoid it at all costs in headlines). Everyone will debate radicalisation as though you just somehow catch it like gonorrhoea – and will offer no clear answers. Vacuous news presenters ask ‘experts’ why it keeps happening in France – no clear answers, but foreign policy will raise its head and possibly Israel and Palestine. No one remembers the dead victims anymore. Politicians inform us that this has nothing to do with you know what and they don’t represent you know what. Mass marches through the streets about peace, love, unity, open borders and all the rest of it. A massive prick sings a song.

Finally, act 4 – Islamophobia. Having now established that none of this has anything to do with you know what – focus will now be turned on the real problem facing us all: racism. Politicians may even apologise on behalf of the Muslim community for how they must feel; news footage shows an angry mob of EDL supporters; the rise of the far right is discussed; concern about Islamophobic attacks: a women in a headscarf was called a bimbo or whatever; ‘you ain’t no Muslim bruv’ or ‘Islam is peace’ or something similar trending on twitter.

Well, those were the good old days (a few months ago) when we at least made an effort, there used to be a formula, a method to the madness. After the Nice attack we hopped, skipped and jumped through each act in a matter of hours rather than days. As Douglas Murray writes, ‘everything barely worth saying will be said endlessly. And the only things worth saying won’t be said.’ Let’s hope the Islamists take our lead and succumb to ennui – I doubt it though.


The rise of the British cheese industry

“Only peril can bring the French people together,” Charles De Gaulle once said. “One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country that has 256 different types of cheese.” If the unity of the UK has been threatened with the recent Scottish referendum, it might have something to do with the explosion in the number of cheeses made in Britain, which now produces more than 800 unique cheeses, from 150 goat’s cheese, to over 85 different blue cheeses. New cheeses have been created using new ideas, old and new recipes, new methods, and rare breeds of cows.

Despite this why does Britain not have the same reputation as France? One of the problems of getting our cheese recognized in Europe is that most of what we export is by no means the best and is usually of the mass-produced supermarket variety. Secondly, although we produce many unique cheeses we have significantly less producers. In Italy there are 373 producers of Parmesan but only six traditional farmhouse cheddar makers in the UK. Excellent cheeses such as Stinking Bishop, which is washed in Perry to give the smell, is only produced by Charles Martell and Son and in small amounts, whereas French artisan cheeses like Crottin de Chavignol is made by 28 small and large producers.

In the past, cheese in Britain was produced on big farms then came the industrial revolution, which meant milk could be sent to the cities or to factories where it was converted to cheese. We went from having 200 different producers of Lancashire down to 2 large factories producing it. This wasn’t the case in Europe, where there was no industrial revolution and thousands of small farms produced the cheese. In Europe, during the Second World War, small farms continued to produce cheese and were in fact encouraged to meet the short supply of food. However, when Britain sent its men to war those hundreds of farms stopped producing cheese, and the industry virtually died, and we were left with producing National Cheese such as cheddar. The war devastated the agricultural communities while small farms in Europe were less affected.

By the 1980s, because of more extensive travel and a renewed appetite and access to food from all over the world, farmers started inventing new and original cheeses again, which included more uncommon varieties of soft and gooey cheeses, including Stinking Bishop, Cornwall Yarg, a cheese wrapped in nettle or garlic leaves, and Lincolnshire Poacher. Having established themselves, these small farms continued to produce high quality cheeses in order to survive and continued to experiment with shape, texture and colour in order to deviate from the mainstream.  Another important factor was the deregulation of the milk sector in 1994, which encouraged farmers to try to add value to their milk by making more cheese and diary products. As a result, over the past decades Britain has come to produce some of the most unique and wonderful cheeses, most of which won’t ever get to Europe.

Although there has been an explosion in cheese making and an increase per head in the amount of cheese consumed, at 11kg per head we are still way behind most of the other EU countries where the average consumption is nearer to 18kgs per head. Nigel White from the British Cheese Board explains that although many consumers have become more knowledgeable about food “At the same time, many working mums who have neither the time or the money to experiment, have to stick to their old favourite recipes, typically one of five ideas that work for them, or convenience or take away meals.” He also explains that consuming more cheese at breakfast also affects the consumption levels in Europe.

World cheese expert Juliet Harbutt “the cheese lady”, explained the problem is that “Cheese is something you eat not cook with. Traditionalists in the trade persist in promoting cheese as something you cook with and with recipes, instead of encouraging people to just eat it.” Juliet who has done many blind cheese tastings around the world is frustrated that tasters always assume that the boring one must be British but it is invariably amongst the best. She explains “When people have a cheese board in this country, the majority are European cheese, just because they don’t know how good British cheese is.”

However, the rise of online shopping has allowed artisan types to become more widely available and many wonderful and unique cheeses are now available online and at farmers markets across the country. Andy Swinscoe, who owns and runs says that “The internet has had a tremendous effect on the growth of the industry, with small farms being able to sell cheese and consumers being able to identify with the maker.” And what’s his favourite cheese? “That’s like having a favourite child, it changes all the time. At the moment Lancashire is great, but sometimes its stilton or a fresh goats cheese.” Andy has worked in France and says there is definitely a better support network for cheese makers in Britain and that France is losing some of its farms and cheeses as a result.

“What gets me every time about cheese,” says Juliet Harbutt. “Is that what the animal eats, from wild flowers and native grasses to silage and grains will influence the taste of the cheese from season to season. Often resulting in some bold extraordinary flavours. The combination of man’s ingenuity and mother nature’s miracle – milk – is incredible.” Cheese lovers who want to learn more about cheese and the cheese making process should take one of Juliet’s master classes or workshops.