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Ok, so here’s the geeky academic part of this blog…

Cheese is one of those funny objects that people use in a variety of ways to build and reproduce social relations.  In other words, cheese doesn’t just have nutritional qualities, it also has social qualities that are expressed in the practices and rituals that people build around it.  So I’ve set up a page (check the side bar) as a way to keep track of some of those rituals and practices.  I’ll add what I find, but drop me a line if you know of any other festivals, events, etc. and I’ll throw them up.

In the meantime, The infamous Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake is coming up fast (May 25th). Cooper’s Hill is an insanely steep piece of ground in Gloucester, down which, once a year, a nutty horde of people tumble, trip, fall and do almost everything but run after an 8 lb. wheel of Double Gloucester cheese.  No doubt there’s a bit of invented tradition here.  Some reports claim that the practice started in the early 1800s. Others give it an older and more refined pedigree claiming that it originates with the Romans.  Some connect it to a  heathen festival to celebrate the return of spring and hopes for a fruitful farming season.  There’s just not much research here.  You can bet if people had been chasing barrels of wine down a hill for centuries, there’d be academics crawling all over it.

If you are not one of the more than 5 million people who have checked out the Cooper’s Hill fiasco here’s a peek …

Cheese rolling is hardly specific to Gloucester.  But others are a bit tamer in their approach to a wheel.  The folk in Chester, for example, run a more sedate affair.  Presumably they have to get up and go to work the next morning…

Over on the continent, the Italians take a different approach to cheese rolling.  Sure they do the hill run thing, but the classic cheese roll is La Ruzzola del Formaggio, a demonstration of strength and finesse that sees competitors wrapping rope around the circumference of a cheese and hurling it yoyo-like down a straightaway…

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