Proust’s Madeleines and Artemisa’s Cheese

Photos from a police raid on The Cheese King of Artemesia. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 31 August 2020 – We all have a mouthful that is the best we have ever eaten, a moment when all the taste buds explode with joy and leave an indelible mark on our memory. Mine was in Juchitán de Zaragoza, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in Mexico. He was a small farmer who buried his arms in a white mass in a ramshackle barn, and I was a Cuban eager to try any dairy product.

With his hands he pulled out a piece of fresh cheese and offered it to me. The flies were hovering around, a couple of skinny dogs were eyeing me, and that white morsel was in front of my eyes and within reach of my nose. In a millisecond I took it and put it in my mouth. Since then, I have not felt anything so intense on my palate. Memory is also carved through taste (ask Marcel Proust) but a taste can trigger both memory and sadness.

Sadness, because in my country it would be impossible to repeat the image of that farmer proudly extending to me his piece of cheese. Sadness because a private producer would have to violate the law ten times every day on this island to achieve a product that impacts plates and memories. Sadness because a State has taken over the beef and dairy sector and left it with dry udders and empty mangers.

In other circumstances, the farmer from Artemisa, whom television presented a few days ago as a criminal, would be given a medal, promoted in his endeavor and had the formulas copied, by which — despite so many restrictions — he managed to make cheese in a country of starving cows and draconian laws. Just seeing the images of the police operation, my mouth began to salivate, as it did one day in a dark Mexican cowshed.


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