‘The caterers will be here at 6.30’, she said. Unusual, I thought, given her penchant for cooking, her single-mindedness about sourcing local produce, and her slightly controlling, albeit extremely lovable, nature. But then all was revealed. These were no ordinary caterers and it was no ordinary catering. It was a cheese extravaganza, complete with personalised cheese boards! Angela Morris and Tim Homewood of Homewood Cheeses are the brains behind the operation and if they’d travel, they’d be welcome in Budapest any day.
The table was heaving under the weight of some half-dozen artisan cheeses, homemade chutneys, quince jelly, fresh breads, and fruit. What a spread. And, more interestingly still, the pair of professionals were on hand to answer questions. I am ashamed to say that I’ve never before really appreciated the art that is cheesemaking. It came as a surprise to hear that the industry has its own awards. Who’d have thought, eh? I had to summon serious will power to leave the dining room lest I make a complete spectacle of myself and eat more than my body weight in Tymsboro goats cheese and onion marmalade.
Mary Holbrook, from Timsbury, Bath, has no need for advertising. She sells everything she makes and having tasted her Tymsboro goats cheese, I can see why. A former museum curator, Mary started making cheese in the 1970s and when she started, she hadn’t a clue what she was doing. Today, it’s a different story.
Other cheeses on offer included a Westcombe cheddar from Somerset; Old Demdike, a ewe’s cheese from Tim Homewood in Wells; Wrekin Blue – a soft blue from Shropshire; Baronet, a reblochon style Jersey milk cheese made by Julianna Sedli, a Hungarian cheesemaker now living near Corsham; and a fresh ewes cheese also by Tim.
As I circled the table on my initial reconnaissance, I fell completely in love (if that’s possible) with the onion marmalade. And in love just with the look of it; I’d yet to taste it. But when I did, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The breads were baked with rye and smelt and felt as if they’d not been long out of the oven. Even the butter tasted different. And because everything was practically oozing of freshness and environmental friendliness, I could almost convince myself that I was doing the world a favour by indulging.
I was reminded of the old TV series, Mastermind and figured that Tim and Angela’s specialist subject would be cheese and all things related thereto. [Tim also teaches cheese making – yet another instance of me wishing I lived locally.] Mind you, before my conversion, I would have put money on finding cheese a rather boring topic of conversation but then I’d not met this pair. It’s obvious that they care a great deal about what they do – and it’s now obvious that what they do really is an art form. This cheese fest added a lovely, different touch to what was never going to be just another 40th birthday party in a beautiful old house in Bath – it was always going to be special. The cheese made it even more so.