David and I have just returned from a fascinating trip to Andalucía to learn from small scale cheese dairies there. Our trip was organised by Andres Santos who we first met in November when he stayed with us during a learning journey to Scotland. We couldn’t have had a better host and guide.
For us, Andres is a very special person. He is completely dedicated to small scale ethical food production in all sectors and specialises in cheese. We had a great deal of respect for him from the time that he stayed with us, but now we are in complete awe of him.
In 5 days he took us to 8 cheese dairies, an olive oil maker, a miller and a wine maker – all small scale. We met his friends and extended family and experienced some of the best food we’ve ever eaten, much of which was grown and made by those around the table.
Currently Andres is working with his friend Victor Perez on a new cheese dairy in Coin near Malaga. Victor manages Finca La Torre, a biodynamic olive grove and mill which produces olive oil that has been recognised as the top olive oil in Spain for the last 4 years – a unique achievement.
Finca La Torre now plan to make soft cheese that will be stored in their olive oil. Look out cheese world, something unique is on its way. We were lucky enough to be at one of their tastings – divine!
Andres and Victor planned to set up the cheese dairy in 3 weeks (we’re aiming for our dairy to be ready in a year!) Our visit was during week 4, and inevitably there were still a few tweaks required. The word ‘crazy’ seemed to be getting used rather a lot. So on top of being our perfect host from early morning to late evening, Andres was working on the new dairy until at least 1am every night! Oh to be young again.
We had lots of discussions about the food culture in Spain and their concern that major corporations with large marketing budgets are masquerading as authentic Spanish producers resulting in cheap unhealthy fast food becoming the norm. I hope not, and with so many enthusiastic, energetic and skilful young people leading the way in maintaining the skills and the culture, we in the UK have a lot to learn from them.