Inside the Diary of Mary Quicke
For many years, I’ve been a loyal reader of Mary’s Diary — the blog written by Mary Quicke, maker of Quicke’s Traditional Cheddar. She posts monthly about her farm in Devon, England, and I’ve always been impressed by two things: her connection to the land and her stunning vocabulary. Well, it turns out Mary pursued a PhD in literature before committing herself to the family dairy.
I learned this when I visited her on a tour with Cheese Journeys earlier this month. We spent a day rambling around Mary’s gorgeous farm (she is 14th generation), ate an exquisite lunch in her new farm cafe, met her cows, toured the aging rooms, and zig-zagged through the gardens of her mother and late father, which are just up the road from where her cows graze.
The dessert Mary served us — a Pavlova made with meringue, whipped unpasteurized cream, and fresh berries from her yard — still looms large in my mind. Indeed, Devon still looms large in my mind, with its orchards, vineyards, lush meadows, and misty harbor towns. No wonder Mary writes such dreamy prose, so colorful and always packed with details about her pastures — what’s growing in them and how the root structure of her grasses are fingering down into the loam. (Pasture porn?)
If there’s one thing I learned from visiting a string of cheese makers on our 9-day odyssey, it’s that each maker has a wild tick. For some, it’s an obsession with keeping an immaculate cheese room (Will Atkinson of Hill Farm Dairy), for others the tick manifests in clever inventions to enhance their craft (Jamie Montgomery of Montgomery’s Cheddar). Mary Quicke is plum crazy for pastures.
Fast-talking and popping with energy, Mary practically leapt fences to show us the grazing area for her hybrid Montbeliarde and Kiwi Friesians. “It’s all about the grasses,” she kept saying, reaching down to snatch a fist full of greenery.
It made me think of how many American cheesemakers I know who obsessively study the butterfat and protein ratio in their milk — the outcome of feeding, in other words. Mary is a first-ingredient freak. She cares most about what her cows eat.
Interesting. I don’t think I’ll walk through a pasture the same way again.
To see an interactive album from our visit to Quicke’s Traditional Cheddar, check out my story on Steller. You can flip through it like a little diary. I’m using Steller, a platform much like Instagram, to share escapades from our trip — I like how Steller allows you to create albums by uploading photos and videos from your phone. Once you “publish” your story, you can share it across platforms.
Note/disclosure: I felt so fortunate to be a guest on the Cheese Journeys UK tour with leader Anna Juhl. I had an incredible time, and I highly recommend one of her upcoming cheese tours in 2016.