Is Cheese Making a Cottage Craft?

I’m often asked, “why make cheese when you can buy it in the store?”. The effort put into making cheese doesn’t seem to weigh up, after all, only a small amount of cheese (around 20% or less) can be obtained from a large amount of milk.  In commercial enterprises, the methods and machinery has been synchronised and perfected to the high degree, to ensure that the maximum yield comes from the ingredients and the balance of flavour to please their market. So why bother doing this at home?

Firstly, cheese making from scratch is pretty easy, especially when made on a micro scale. I would not suggest making EVERYTHING from scratch, but for a fairly small effort, you can make something to be proud of, and without really cooking anything – at best, you could say we heat milk and stir in  a few key ingredients.

And to me it’s not about speed or efficiency.  The purpose is to enliven the home, with stirring and waiting and watching while the magic happens. Yes it does take some care and a few bits of “know how” but none of it is too challenging. It is about continuing a grand tradition, and you could claim to be a cottage workshop creating a warm feeling of homeliness.

I recently introduced this craft to a small group of ladies in their home.  They took up the challenge of cheese making and came away with some lovely cheese and enthusiasm for doing more in the future.


Teaching and Learning

I have been a trainer, mostly of adults, on and off for some time.  The personal satisfaction I get from teaching is hard to calculate, for me it is about inspiring others to try something new.  It is about the possibility of opening a door,  often that the student didn’t even know existed.  Of course, it is not always that awe inspiring, sometimes it is just something a student has to learn to do their job.

My Cheesemaking classes are about sharing my passion for cooking, which for me is an adventure every day.  Even if I am making the same thing, time after time, the universe seems to conspire to make it different each time.  It is this variation that makes it surprising.

The students from my latest cheesmaking class are a great example of those who come to learn. I am hoping they will continue their adventures (like I am!) with further cheesemaking experiments.


Photos & Text Copyright Sophia Poulos.


Tough Cheese

I recently watched the movie “The Founder”, the story about Ray Kroc who eventually went on to expand the McDonalds food franchise network.  He talks about Persistence. Nothing will take the place of Persistence.  And so it is with cheesemaking.  At first, we begin, small attempts at cheesemaking, then onto bigger things.  Maybe the Mozzarella won’t stretch, the Ricotta tastes bitter, the Blue Vein refuses to mould properly.  But do not give up, there is magic in the saucepan, brewing wonderful things.

The students at my latest class at St George & Sutherland Community College came and presented themselves for duty. They produced beautiful things, some perhaps not perfect, but nevertheless they came away with great personal satisfaction.


Photos: Sophia Poulos

Create Something

Create something. Yes go on, I dare you.  In the nicest possible way.  This is what Elizabeth Gilbert implores us to do in her book Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear.  I have been reading this inspiring book and have at times laughed and cried, but always with the idea of ‘yes! this makes sense’.

Gilbert shares stories that we can all relate to, about creating work, and launching it into the unknown.  The big ‘out there’ of the cosmos.  Not unlike what I am doing here with this blog post.  She does however remind us, that we are not at the mercy of our reader.  If fact it is not about that at all… it is about having fun in the process.  That the journey is the important thing, not the destination.

So in this frame of mind we are free to create… anything that draws our attention or ‘curiosity’ as Gilbert puts it.  To trust in our curiosity and wonder to lead us in the right path, whether this may be cooking, teaching or any other endeavour!

Further she asserts that we were born to create, that it is something that comes to us naturally.  That doesn’t mean that we will necessarily create the thing we intend to. For example, the notion of this blog is still in its formative stage, it is a friend in becoming.  This blog and I are forming a creative partnership; sometimes I am inspired, and at other times the inspiration comes to me.  And I wonder who is the voice that is coming out in these words?

Gilbert might say that it doesn’t matter either way as long as you are enjoying it.  In a light hearted way.  In other words don’t become too serious about things.  Gilbert talks about martyrdom with regards to artists and creative people, the idea that artists should suffer for their craft. But she insists that this is not necessary, that suffering in fact may cutoff the creative spark, while the artist wallows in misery. She favours the idea of the ‘trickster’ who is ever moving, looking for solutions, looking at the funny side of life.  This is a much better model for the creative person.

Gilbert also adds that we may choose not to create.  Perhaps sit in the corner and pout, admonish the gods for not heading our needs.  But that is really the ego talking, the soul is not touched by petty disappointments. The soul sees the big picture, that the journey of a thousand miles starts with just the first step.

So where are you on this creative journey?  Perhaps walking up a long sand dune, not knowing what is on the other side; it may be another sand dune or perhaps a wonderful oasis.  As our time here is temporary why not just be an avid explorer and follow your path where it takes you.  You may be in for a thrilling ride.