Say Cheese

We recently took an excursion to Alkmaar to observe the reenactment of the cheese market.  Alkmaar has had a cheese market and thriving cheese trade since the 1300s.  Cheese was brought to the market square in front of the weighing house for trading by the four different cheese groups, each identified by the color of the hat that they wear.  On trading day, the cheese is laid out in front of the weighing house.

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At 10am the bell is rung to signal the start of the trading.  At that time, the cheese bearers begin stacking cheese on their wooden carrying planks and taking it to the weighing scale inside the weigh house.  After it is weighed, the bearers haul it back to the square to the loading carts where it is carted off to buyers.

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All of this is overseen by the Cheese Fathers for each group.

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During the process, cheese inspectors examine the cheese with a 4 category process to ensure its quality.  Finally, the seller and buyer agree on a price in an interesting hand slapping process.

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All of these elements are traditional to how cheese was traded for centuries although it is now just a display for fun.  Cheese inspectors at today’s market share samples of the cheese with the crowd. They use a small plug device to extract a cylindrical piece of cheese from the huge cheese wheel.

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In addition, cheese maids wander the crowd selling cheese products.

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You can also purchase cheese and other treats at the market stalls around the square.

In addition to our visit to the market, we also stopped in the Cheese Museum.  It was a small but informative museum about the history of cheese making in The Netherlands, particularly Alkmaar.  There were many interesting artifacts.

So-did we eat any cheese?  But of course.  They just sell Gouda though you can get it in many different flavors.  We tried a young (couple month ripened) Gouda and an old (2 years ripened) cheese.  Both were very good!

A day in Alkmaar-now that’s how you say cheese!

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