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Having never written about food before, and having noticed how well received my recent posts on international cuisine have been, I have decided to go in search of more interesting and amazing blog topics on food!

Europe’s public theatricals centre around their cheese, and their passion for locally produced cheese is rather comical to the eyes of someone coming from a part of the world where cheese is, well, insignificant.

The smallest of regions in Europe produce marvelous and unique cheese in cheese factories no bigger than a couple of car parking garages! From grandparents to grandkids – they all seem to be actively involved in the process, be it manufacturing, marketing or sales. Talking about their craft brings them joy, evident from the sparkle in their eyes. Now cheese making is a serious business, however the passion that engulfs the cheese making community is one I have never seen anywhere else.

Holland is one such country.

Photo Girish Menon

During the summer, towns such as Alkmaar, Gouda, Edam and Hoorn host traditional cheese markets. Here, they enact the day-to-day scenes of cheese markets of bygone eras.

The customer (i.e. the wholesale merchant) arrives, wanders the periphery of the many stalls carefully inspecting the produce, he approaches the dealer; they don’t necessarily make eye contact but slap each other’s right hand; the dealer quotes his price, slaps the customer’s hand, the customer negotiates, slaps the dealers hand in return, and the process continues until they agree on a price and shake on it.  The cheese weighers are then summoned.  They carry the cheese to the weighing room and then to the horse carriage or nearby boat.  In the mean time, the dealer has already started slapping hands with another customer, perhaps successfully.

Hollands Cheese Culture.

Hollands Cheese Culture.

I have been to Alkmaar and Edam. Cheese market or no cheese market, I highly recommend a visit. Edam grew on me every time I went there. A few months ago, I received a comment on a blog post that I’d done about Edam, it read:

Hello you on the other side of the world. It’s nice to read such lovely comments of our little beautiful city Edam. I’m living in the street on the picture with the water and the small boat in Edam.  It’s a strange idea that the pictures of my street are going to the other site of the world. Beautiful pictures by the way.

Small world, indeed!

I hope to go to Edam again and interact a lot more with local people and get a better sense of their passion for cheese.


Tourists boating in the canals in Alkmaar.


Have you experienced a surreal cultural tradition based on food?

Girish Menon is a freelance travel photographer and photography tutor. To see more of his amazing travel photography you can visit


  1. I love how passionate the Dutch are about their cheese! Always dream about buying a whole round block!

    • You should!! I wonder how long it would take to eat a whole block though … would call for a cheese and wine party!

  2. This is right up my street! Not sure about the hand slapping, although I have been known to get a little violent over cheese!! X

    • You would love this then! …we all have something we have been known to get a little violent over :D

  3. MMM I love me some cheese, I love the Netherlands and I love this post! I have a glass of wine, I’m just missing one thing. ;) Thanks for making me hungry haha! – Heather, Life of a Traveling Navy Wife

    • I’ve actually just had a cheese craving from re-visiting this post to reply to you :D! I have the cheese, just need to go and find the wine!! Enjoy!

    • Oooh nice! So an awesome spot for music lovers also then! Thanks for the tip and your link – will head over and check it out!

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