Illustration Graham Roumieu
The village of Stilton, in the English countryside, is in a pickle. Though an aromatic British cheese bears the town’s name, a recent European Union ruling determined it can be made only in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire—and not in Stilton. Stiltonians, unsurprisingly, think the rule stinks.
The Stilton Cheesemakers Association (SCA)—which is not associated with the village—claims the cheese is named for the town where it was first sold to the public. Richard Landy, a historian and potter who specializes in cheese ceramics, disagrees. “Many objective people have been skeptical about the cheese originating in Leicestershire, as the SCA claims,” says Landy, “because they would not have dragged their cheese over 30 miles of bad roads to Stilton just to sell it. And even if they did, why call it Stilton?” Landy spent 400 hours in libraries and research offices and online studying the cheese’s history, and he discovered that Stilton was, in fact, made in Stilton in the 17th century.
Landy’s bombshell rocked the town, which already hosts a “cheese-rolling” championship, a port and cheese festival and various other cheese-based events. “The whole village is excited that we no longer have to put up with caustic comments from the places that currently make the cheese,” says Olive Main, chair of the Stilton Parish Council.
Though the SCA now mentions Landy’s research on its website, the law remains. Pending a new petition of the EU by the association, Stilton still can’t be made in Stilton. —JEANETTE HURT