Cheese Festival with New Perspectives
24 October, 2013
On 19-20 October, Ethnographic Museum hosted the Cheese Festival under the aegis of “Georgian Cheese Millennium and Its European Future”. Among the organizers were Ministry of Agriculture and Guild of Cheese Makers, while Ministry of Culture and Monuments’ Protection, Georgian National Museum, National Wine Agency, Georgian Cheese House and others took up the role of official supporters.
“The culture of cheese production is as ancient as that of wine-making in Georgia,” said Shalva Pipia, Minister of Agriculture. “This festival serves
as a popularization of Georgian cheese and restoration of lost species. Our Ministry will keep on promoting the events that will be held to raise awareness about Georgian products,” the minister said in his opening speech.
The current festival was wider in scale than its predecessors. Apart from many species of local cheese, there were assortments of wine, honey, sweets, crafts and souvenirs. Events were held in three different yards of the museum. In the first one, a cheese mini-bazaar featured well over 20 cheese producers with a wide variety of cheese species. Guests had a chance to vote for five cheeses that they liked most of all according to their taste. In the second yard, a five-member professional jury identified the winners in the following nominations: 1. Traditional Georgian cheese – the medal went to the cheese-maker Maels Bdoian; 2. Most tasty cheese (people’s choice) – the winner was Ecofood; 3. “Akhmeta group” ranked as the leader in the category of family cheese; 4. European cheese made in Georgia singled out the cheese-maker Darejan Kantelidze from Altia Santa village in Tsalka as a winner; 6. In the category of the best specimen of restored recipes, the award went to Tenili cheese – cheese-maker Galina Inasaridze.
Although, Ana Mikadze-Chikvaidze is not an ethnographer, her love for Georgia and ethno-culture has helped her achieve almost unattainable goals. Today, she is often nicknamed as a “mother of Georgian cheese”, as she was the most active person, who managed to restore these cheese specimens and encourage private farmers to carry on and not to lose these wonderful cheese-making traditions. She heads the Guild of Cheese Makers. Ms. Mikadze-Chikvaidze has left her hometown Tbilisi and moved to countryside and started living as an ordinary farmer. “This year, much more farmers – both individuals and those with enterprises - are participating in this event. The issue of the museum has also emerged, proving that milk jugs have the history of at least 80 centuries,” she said noting the main novelty of the festival. “I have also my own choice among the winners – this is farmer Rati Rostomashvili, who makes Swiss cheese in Georgia,” she added.
The third yard was a meeting place for journalists and scholars. Here, the museum exhibits as well as cult figures made of cheese were displayed. “The fact that cheese-making is an ancient craft is proved by the fact that Aristotle has mentioned Samegrelo (western Georgia) as the cradle of Sulguni (delicious Georgian cheese), where the worldly renowned Colchian cow was born. One of the most ancient myths of Argonauts also mentions the existence of ancient Colchian sheep,” Tamila Tsagareishvili, ethnographer spoke exclusively to Georgian Journal. “Xenophon wrote as far back as in the 4th century BC that the main food for Georgians was dairy products, bread and honey.” Reportedly, cheese festival’s calendar is on the agenda to start in January. This festival is probably one of the few bright events of modern life to remind us of this truth and encourage us to try our best to help revive this direction and enjoy the feedback locally as well as internationally.