What is a Lazy Lady Cheese? – by Lauren Gitlin

Lazy Lady Farm cheese is the culmination of an enduring reverence for the land, a fascination with Old World cheesemaking traditions and a constant, near-pathological thirst for reinvention. Drawing creative inspiration from music, politics, geography and language, always with a winking sense of humor, LLF has churned out dozens of one-off varieties of cheese in addition to its core lineup of favorites (La Petite Tomme, Capriola, Pyramid, Bonaparte, Sweet Caroline, La Roche), each one sprung fully formed from the mind of the farm’s proprietress, Laini Fonidiller.

Since well before chevre was a commonplace fixture of culinary life in the U.S., Fondiller has been crafting small batches of goat and mixed milk cheeses by hand, winning over palates and inspiring an entire generation of artisan producers to throw their hats in the ring. Drawing from her formative experience farming and making cheese in France and Corsica in the early 1980s, Laini struck out on a path to reinvent the landscape of American cheese with one goat and a dream, and she never looked back.

Decades later, her repertoire of cheese styles is dizzying, and her mad scientist impulses, while certainly more informed than they were when she began, are just as whimsical and far-reaching. Why continue to experiment and invent when so many other creameries choose to focus on one or two or three types of cheese? According to Fondiller, that would be akin to a painter painting the same portrait over and over again. With milk as the ultimate canvas, and so much possibility inherent in its complexity, why would you want to limit yourself?

Fondiller and her farm have always at their core been concerned with pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Is it possible to live lightly on the land and still extract what is needed to create an artisan product? When you insist in living off the grid, electing to get your power from sun and wind and rotationally graze your small ruminants, it is. Is it possible to remain truly small scale when so many other farms feel the pressure to scale up to remain financially viable? When you devote yourself to decades of focused genetics and holistic herd health, it is.

Is it possible to harness the microbiological complexity of cultures and molds, of the techniques of affinage and the seasonal variation in milk and simultaneously reflect an individual vision and perspective in relation to the world at large? Look no further than the Barrick Obama, a beer-washed goat’s milk cheese that’s an homage both to our former president and to a linguistic affectation of the Hoosiers of Fondiller’s native Indiana (where a “brick” is pronounced ‘bahrick’).  Or the Bonaparte, Fondiller’s own interpretation of the classic French cheese Valencay, which according to lore was Bonaparte’s favorite.

Every cheese has a story, some convoluted and some as simple as Fondiller’s relentless restlessness. After thirty-some odd years, one has to keep things interesting. To taste a Lazy Lady cheese is to get a glimpse into the mind of a visionary and to ingest her worldview, from her perch in a rugged corner of the Green Mountains. It’s a sight — and a taste — to behold.

 

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