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Celebrating cheese

I could already smell it going up the escalator in the Sky City Convention Centre. Cheese, glorious, cheese! At the door I was handed the ubiquitous glass of superb wine and a free bag for carrying goodies in. I could barely contain myself. Walking through the door it was as if I had died and gone to cheese-ven…can I say cheese-ven? OK, maybe it’s not that funny but I definitely felt as if I’d stumbled upon a treasure trove of the kind I could only dream about when I used to live in Asia. This, THIS is why I’m back!

The medals had already been awarded by the time I’d arrived but I wasted no time in seeking out the winners with my little serviette and toothpick. It was a bit of a scrum as we all tried to get at the samples. I’d never seen so many people as crazy about good cheese as I was. These were definitely my people!

My favourites of the night were all goat’s milk and sheep milk cheeses. The kind of cheese you don’t see everyday. I was already planning my next holiday based around artisan dairies of the North Island.

Just when I thought I was all cheesed out, I saw the sales table. OK Marie, control yourself and hope to God they don’t have EFTPOS (They did.). I’d heard that this is where it all happens. Legends of bargains have been haunting me in my sleep for days. I decided to take the leap in. “Do you know which if these cheddars are really sharp?”. Many of the cheeses at the table are labelled generically and I wanted to bring my British husband, who misses his sharp English cheddars, a consolation prize/ peace offering for not being able to come along. The man takes one look at me and says, “Wait here. I’ve got just the thing.”. And then he took off into the crowd eventually returning dragging a woman by her arm and practically singing, “This is your woman!”. With her free hand she produced a giant wedge of the most beautiful thing I think I’ve ever set my eyes on. I tentatively asked, “Is it…sharp? Maybe even so sharp as to have a bit of that…” at the same time we both said, “…calcium crunch to it?”. She hands me a slice off the wedge and there was no need for her to answer. “Put it in my bag, please.” I said. “How much?” “Ten dollars.” I was looking at him in disbelief because that was a huge wedge of very high quality (it had won a gold medal) cheddar when he said, “or five.”. He sold it to me for five dollars! This was the same man I heard later shouting, “Fill a carrier bag with cheese for fifty dollars!”. I’d also bought a kilo of cumin feta and a soft herb cheese. I knew I had to leave immediately or I’d go mad with cheese buying. I was eyeing up a raclette when my friend broke my trance and brought me down to Earth. I was a woman out of control and she saved me just in time from my cheese buying frenzy. I’m definitely coming back next year.

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