"One to be ready!"
"Two to be steady!"
"Three to prepare!"
"and four to be off!"
Brockworth is a lovely village located in Gloucestershire, England. Every year since the fifteenth century (with most written records indicating the nineteenth century), the villagers of Brockworth have had a cheese rolling contest on Cooper’s Hill. Large, round wheels of cheese are rolled down the very steep hill and chased by extremely competitive runners. It’s funny they call them “runners” because there is more rolling, tumbling, and very awkward falls than actual running. This event draws in people from around the globe and is held every May during the spring bank holiday that falls on the last Monday of the month. There are theories that the origins of the event tie back to pagan rituals for celebrating the arrival of summer. Large rolls of hay were lit on fire and sent down the very same hill in Brockworth. Hay on fire seems a wee bit more dangerous. I am glad this Olympic-caliber event evolved into a cheese wheel. The people in charge of this event are very specific about their cheese—it has to be a Double Gloucester cheese. Double Gloucester is a traditional, semi-hard cheese which, as you can guess, is made locally in Gloucestershire. It has been made there since the sixteenth century. There are several theories as to why this cheese is called a “Double” (choose your favorite): because the milk had to be skimmed twice, because the cream from the morning milk was added to the evening milk, or because the roll is typically twice the height of other cheeses. Cheese was quite popular throughout the Middle Ages, and there were more varieties than you’d think. For the poorer folk, cheese was their major source of protein. Cheddar, Parmesan, Brie, Ricotta, and Gouda were all readily available.
During WWII, a fake cheese wheel that was made of wood was used because laws banned the use of cheese in an event. Cheese was a rationed food item, so waste not, want not.
Chase That Cheese and Egg Soup
This is a simple, delicate, yet delicious soup to make after you have flung yourself down Cooper's Hill... or if you just want some soup.
6 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
1 garlic clove, minced
1 leek, trimmed and sliced into ½” pieces
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup mushroom, sliced
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp of salt
3 large eggs, whisked
½ cup grated white cheddar
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add the chicken stock to a medium size saucepan.
In a separate pan, melt the butter and sauté the garlic, leek, carrot, and mushrooms.
On medium high heat, cook the chicken stock and add the sautéed vegetables, pepper, ginger, and salt. You will want the soup to get to a rolling boil.
While you are waiting for the soup to heat, place the cheese, parsley, and eggs (no shells, of course) in a bowl and fully incorporate. I recommend using a bowl that is smaller than the saucepan.
Once the soup has started a rolling boil, lower the heat to medium low. Using a wooden spoon, stir the soup in a continuous circular motion. With your other hand, lower and tilt the bowl of the egg mixture toward the saucepan, keeping the rim of the bowl as close as you can to the boiling soup.
Slowly stream the egg mixture into the moving soup. Continue until all the egg mixture is gone. Season to your liking, and enjoy.
This soup has very delicate flavors and will be delicious with a warm, savory piece of focaccia bread.
You can find more recipes like this in my cookbook 'A Thyme and Place, Medieval Feasts and Recipes for the Modern Table'.