This morning, whilst spelunking around the internet in my parents’ kitchen in Chicago, the cheesy gods offered up this tidbit of dairy trivia. June is National Dairy Month. Who knew?! Certainly not me, and I’ve been in this game for quite a minute or two now. I was looking for cheese related holidays, knowing that shavuot happened just last week, but who needs a one day holiday when you can have four weeks worth of dairy-centric festivities?!
According to the milk-lore out there, National Dairy Month started off as National Milk Month way back in 1937. And it wasn’t just a summer love letter to cows and dairymen alike… it was designed to keep the public’s appetite for dairy high during times of peak production. Cows tend to produce the most milk in early summer when they have just freshened and are turned out on pasture, grazing their way through tons of grass and greenery. The Dairy Council, bent on using up all that good milk instead of turning it into processed gobbledygook like they do today (milk powder, powdered whey, etc, etc) went on a dairy rampage, and states from Wisconsin to New York began having parades, cow camps, milking competitions, and free food! (ice cream, omelettes, curds) all in the name of promoting dairy.
Last year, when I was a judge at the American Cheese Society competition, my co-judge happened to be a seasoned Midwestern dairyman. Bill Schlinsog was a 50 year veteran of the Wisconsin Dairy biz, and worked his way through the dairy industry from helping his folks operate a small cheese plant without electricity near Madison, to being a professional cheese and butter grader for the state. He told me about his own county’s Dairy Days festival, which according to him was far and away one of the best parts of the job. Each June, people from miles around would converge at a different dairy farm for a day of farming and food. Bill was responsible each year for the gargantuan cheese omelette… they would crack up a couple hundred eggs, shred an obscene quantity of cheese, and with the help of some good Wisconsin butter, would fry the whole thing up and serve it for breakfast. Now that’s what I call a dairy day.
So for anyone out there who was looking for an excuse to eat more cheese, there you have it. Make some ice cream, fry up some curds, or just grab a hearty block o’ something delicious for the house. Cholesterol be damned! ‘Tis the season for cheesin’!