Showing posts with label Butte. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Butte. Show all posts

Friday, December 12, 2014

Spreading the Curd in Montana

Regan deVictoria and Cheese!
When I suggested Gordon Edgar's book “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” as a summer reading selection at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library, I never imagined it would lead to a small scale artisan cheese festival.

An Overflow Crowd Attended
Regan deVictoria, the library’s programming manager, ran with the suggestion. So on August 16th, Butte hosted the largest celebration of handmade cheese ever held in Montana. More than eighty people (double the expected number) enjoyed nearly four hours of curd related talk, tasting and making in the main lobby of the public library.

Matt Moore ~ Cheesemaking
The event opened with a local home cheesemaker, Matt Moore, demonstrating a mozzarella make. Matt started by saying he became a cheesemaker after reading a book he got at the library, Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making. Matt has been up to his elbows in curd ever since. Some type of cheese sandwich accompanies his toddler son’s every meal.

Close Up of a Tasting Tray
Next the crowd indulged in tasting twenty-two cheeses that I brought from the American Cheese Society Conference sale in Madison, WI.

For many people in the audience, it was the first time they had tasted goat or sheep milk cheeses. Regan herself is now a goat cheese evangelist. With cheese taste and talk still swirling on their tongues, the audience then become absorbed in an hour long conversation, storytelling and QA session with Gordon Edgar.

We connected with Gordon through Skype as he sat in his San Francisco apartment and felt entirely at home with him, as though we were all in the same room.

Live Skype Session with Gordon
Thanks to the effort of many good people, the entire event worked like magic. On a Friday night in an historic hard rock mining town, an admiration for handmade food was reborn.

Twenty-two Handmade Cheeses
Cheese and tech geeks together in the open ferment of ideas in a public library...the perfect recipe for enchantment.

Samples Included a First Place Blue

Food ~ The First Fuel of Industry

Uptown Butte in the 1940s
Uptown Butte in the 1940s
Built on a steep mountain grade in the late 1800's, "The Richest Hill on Earth" was intended to be a powerful place from the very beginning. With wide streets, tall buildings, and sweeping mountain views, Butte is a city that once mattered very much; and the hope of re-capturing that stature continues to nourish its dreams.

Fueling the Melting Pot

Rocky Mountain Cafe Private Dining Room
Rocky Mountain Cafe Private Dining Room
The city's notorious mining history, though, often overshadows recognition for the broad cultural diversity of its immigrant residents, and at the heart of those cultures was food. Indeed, Butte's reputation for fine dining and authentic ethnic cuisine endured long after the mining operations were in decline.

Now in its tenth printing, The Butte Heritage Cookbook is a cherished record of culinary life in the Mining City; and it underscores the value of promoting, maintaining and enriching Butte's legacy of artisan food production and fusion.

Foreword to The Butte Heritage Cookbook, written by Jean McGrath, Editor.
Butte Heritage CookbookIn 1885, Butte was booming with a population of 22,000, largely foreign-born, the majority of whom were Cornish and Irish immigrants (miners) who had found their way into the camp. Around the turn of the century, when vast migrations of people from Europe seeking freedom and a better life arrived in this country, Butte received its share of newcomers. The population swelled to 47,635, with an estimated 50% listed as foreign-born. Also, by then a number of settlers had come west to rebuild their lives and fortunes after the Civil War.

In 1918, when the town reached its peak population, some authorities (unofficially) estimated the number of people in Butte and the surrounding area to be 100,000. At one time there were as many as 50 nationalities represented in Butte's population. No matter what the differences in racial origin, religion and custom, there has always existed a bond of hospitality among Butte cooks; and no matter from whence they came, they brought something from which we have borrowed to enrich our present-day tables. 
Brillat-Savarin, an 18th century gourmet observed, "The pleasures of the table are of all times and all ages, of every country and of every day." This is a town where the Cornish pasty and Serbian povetica share equal billing; where on St. Patrick's Day corned beef, washed down with green beer, is devoured with as much gusto by the Finns, the Cornish, and the Serbs, as by the Irish; where out-of-town visitors dining at Butte's famous Italian restaurants marvel at a side dish called sweet potato salad inherited from an early-day French restaurant proprietor; where an Italian immigrant family made famous a Spanish tamale; and an Italian miner willingly swapped as share of his bucket of "dago red" for a generous portion of Cousin Jack's oversized pasty. 
Collectors of Butte nostalgia discover how closely the story of food is woven into the fabric of the community. In the single man's era of Butte, hundreds of boarding houses dotted the hillside. Restaurants and saloons, breweries and bakeries were an important facet of the town's colorful business community. The Cornish pasty was adopted by all as the miner's main lunch-bucket meal. Teddy Taparish, from Dalmatia, received world-wide acclaim with his famous Italian Rocky Mountain Cafe. In the days of the Copper Kings, the Silver Bow Club wined and dined the most prominent of the nation's financial world.