There he was, with rosy cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes, talking energetically to his conversation partner. I stepped up to him to introduce myself and in no time Jos van Riet had taken my hand to show me the fine details of handjeklap, the traditional negotiation between cheese farmer and cheese trader.
Natural Beauty and Local Farmers
In between Utrecht and Gouda, surrounded by idyllic Dutch landscapes there is a gem of a city called Woerden. Although it is a precious small city, perfect for a daytrip from Amsterdam or Utrecht, not many people know about it. Woerden came up with a fantastic plan to put the city on the map. As the capital of the Green Heart, a large green nature area between the bigger cities in Holland, the focus was set on the natural beauty of the area and the authentic local flavour in the city centre itself. This local flavour does make Woerden quite a warm and joyful place and to extend that feeling a farmers and cheese market is created where you get so close to the Dutch cheese farmers and traders you can actually shake hands with them, or in my case, do some handjeklap.
Woerden had one more idea to put the city on the map and that was the introduction of the Cheese King. Every year a highly estimated and highly qualified person in the local cheese business is chosen to be Cheese King of Woerden. I think this is a fabulous idea, because it makes the whole Dutch cheese business so much more personal.
Cheese King Netherlands
Jos van Riet was crowned Cheese King Woerden shortly before the Graskaasdag beginning of June. His main task as cheese king is to tell as many people as possible, visitors, bloggers, tour operators, all there is to know about Woerden and the Dutch cheese process: from cheese making to cheese selling. Now, if you get a chance to meet this man and talk to him, please do. He’s not the type of person just telling mere facts. He will introduce everyone he knows, and he knows every person in Woerden. He is a storyteller, as soon as he starts talking you enter his world of Woerden.
Together with Jos I visited the Woerden farmer & cheese market on Saturday morning. He’s a man of words and actions, introducing the cheese farmers, the cheese traders and stepping right into the scene to comment and explain everything in detail. We headed for a tour in a Dutch cheese farm where Jos enthusiastically showed every step in the cheese making process. After a few hours with him you know all the anecdotes, gossips of the city, have experienced all the mayor events in Woerden’s history and can tell a thing or two yourself about Gouda cheese, farmers cheese, handjeklap, cheese making.
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