Would this cheese be so special if it weren’t so hard to get?
Cheese in Switzerland
My body is thrust against the door of the moving car as my Swiss future-brother-in-law takes a sharp corner, and as I look over the knife’s edge cliff into the pastoral valley below all I can think is, “this had better be worth it.”
My sister-in-law Julia and her fiance Tobias have assured us that not only is he driving beneath the speed limit—which, based on the information on the signs whizzing by us seems to be true, if terrifying—but the creamery we’re heading to is in fact the best place to buy cheese in the Lumnezia region.
It’s certainly hard to get. The creamery is in a picturesque village high in the mountains, in a spot that could conservatively be described as breathtakingly gorgeous. Plus, it’s open for a grand total of one and a half hours per day, which seems to add the mystique. Most mysterious, though, was the statement that all of the creamery’s milk was delivered via a tube snaking down the side of the mountain.
A few minutes later, inside the creamery itself, the multi-generational family of women working behind the counter offer to let me see the inner workings, and I pass behind the fragrant glass-fronted case to the area where the cheese is made. Running along the ceiling, as Tobias promised, there truly is a tube that pumps in milk from cows pastured higher up in the mountains. I had been expecting a sort of keystone pipeline for dairy products, or at least something bulky and formidable. But it’s just a flexible, plastic tube coming in through the ceiling.
I have many questions about the logistics of the system, about temperature control and spoilage and things like “what happens if the tube gets crushed by a boulder or if a mountain goat decides to take a bite out of it”, but there’s a line forming and we’re genially ushered back to the front of the shop.
We purchase multiple pounds of cheese, and as I gaze into the immaculate case, I see small wooden sheepherders and plastic replicas of longhorn mountain goats frolicking among the wedges and wheels. Awards and official notices of recognition from the government cover the walls and sit on every available surface. The place’s reputation is not hyperbole.
The next morning, jet lag kickstarts me awake before dawn. In the mist-shrouded silence of the mountain on which our house stands, I watch bats give way to songbirds. The peace is broken only by the sounds of mooing and cowbells as a herd moves in the distance from one pasture to another. The cheese ends up part of a breakfast spread, and as we eat, I wonder if it would be as special if it weren’t so hard to get. I think that it would be.
Vigela 102, 7148 Lumnezia