15 June 2013

Who puts the Cheddar in Cheddar Cheese?

Gorge Cheese Co
only producer of 'cheddar' actually based in Cheddar
In the Consice OED, Cheddar is defined as a kind of cheese, firm and smooth, yellow, white, or orange, and originally made in Cheddar in South-Western England.

Cheddar cheese gets its name from the village of Cheddar in Somerset - where it was originally produced around the 12th century.

The comercial use of the word Cheddar is not restricted by any commercial law. That's why we may easily come across some cheese tagged "Cheddar" in a supermarket even if it's not genuinely produced in Cheddar.

The same isn't truth about the word Cornish, as used in Cornish pasty.

Pasty Shop outside London Victoria Station
Cornish is an adjective relating to Cornwall; Cornish pasty designates “a pasty containing seasoned meat and vegetables, especially potato” (Concise OED). Despite the name, Cornish pasty doesn’t have to be produced in Cornwall. But if a Cornish Pasty is stamped with a PGI or a PDO badge of honour, it means that the Cornish pasty really comes from Cornwall.

PGI and PDO are labels legally created by the bureaucrats in Brussels to protect heritage food across Europe. PDO, protected designation of origin, means that the food was produced and processed and in a particular area – Cornwall, for example. PGI, protected geographical indication, means only that the food was assembled there (Rip Off Food, BBC ONE, aired in 29 Oct 2012).

That's when the strangeness starts, as I see. We call cheddar a cheese that actually mayn't come from Cheddar, and we call cornish a pasty that actually mayn't come from Cornwal. So, the words we use to name things doesn't really obey a strict logic, unless one advocates that cheddar and cornish means 'in the style of'. Then, we are actually bending the meaning the words according to our convenience.

Traditional Yorkshire Pudding: from BBC Food Recipes
And don't get me started with Yorkshire Pudding!

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