As any cultured sommelier on good terms with lactose will tell you, the best pairings for wine are cheese and art. Gallery directors and front of house managers rely on this winning combination, punctuating your dose of Raphael with notes of Rhenish and Roquefort. Camembert and Cabernet are perfect for the Cabaret. Even your slightly deranged cousin – the one in his first semester of Art School – has the good sense to dish up Bega cubes and Passion Pop at his intermedial ‘Happening’.
Art, just like cheese and wine, is a labour of love – the transformation of raw ingredients into something wonderful. Sadly, unlike its edible counterparts, Art (in Australia, at least) appears to belong to the cities. With no need to sun-drench grapes or supply mountainous terrain for goats, our Art lives in cramped laneways and alongside stylish apartment buildings.
That’s not to say that Art can’t travel. Like wine and cheese, it is often packaged in airtight wrapping and shipped off to the regions. But just as the best mozzarella comes fresh from the farm, so too does travelling Art degrade over distance and time. Those gravelly notes and gritty scenes that went down so well in Brisbane and Melbourne don’t perfectly translate into Rockhamptonese. We may struggle to appreciate the discordant clarinets and undulating bass drum, designed to clearly evoke a smog-choked traffic jam to our southern neighbours.
This cultural dissonance is explained away by artists and policy makers alike; regional palates are simply ‘less refined’. We prefer Kraft Singles – a ‘cheese-like product’ – to cheddar.
This is a cop out. This is wrong. We want cheese.
But not just any cheese. We want cheese that addresses our needs and sensibilities. We want cheese that speaks to who we are and reflects our environment. We want cheese that appreciates the nuances of living at a gentler pace, and acknowledges both the joys and frustrations that come with it. The problem is, they don’t make that cheese in the city.
We need to make it ourselves.
Yes. Let’s import music and sculpture and dance on the same truck as the brie. Let’s host tastings after the theatre. But let’s not just blindly consume to create an air of sophistication. We need to view and listen and eat to learn. We need to be talking about the mouthfeel and analysing what does and doesn’t hit home. Most importantly of all, we need to apply that knowledge in our own kitchen. We need to experiment to find a flavour profile that is relevant and responsive to our region.
We need to create our own art. We all need to be cheese makers.