When the Cows Come Home

In today’s SF Chronicle Janet Fletcher relates a wonderful tradition that occurs in the German Allgauer Alps. Apparently every fall there is a festival celebrating the cows’ return from the mountains where they’ve spent their time since spring feeding on the mountain grasses. These cows are the source of the milk that is made into the region’s Hirtenkase or "Herdsman Cheese".

According to Janet, on September 18 the people of the region line the streets and watch the cows come home. I presume the Cow Parade, otherwise known as Almabtrieb, is followed by a feasting on Cheese and something strong to drink.

I want to go there for that. Just the idea of lining the streets to watch the cows come home, cheese in one hand and perhaps a Riesling or beer in the other is enough to send me off to Expedia to look for tickets.

It sounds campy, and I suspect there is probably an element of camp, but the closest thing we have in this neck of the woods is Sonoma’s Vintage Festival. It’s nice. There’s a parade of local luminaries and such. but there are no cows.

Is Janet’s the only regular Cheese column running in an American newspaper? I don’t know for sure but I bet it is. And we are all better for it. In fact I envy her. What a great beat!


8 Responses

  1. Randy - February 15, 2008

    Tom, I have to admit I had to read this very carefully to get the wine angle. I wonder if the Harvest Festival would be even more popular if we had cows saunter down the parade route…

  2. Tom Wark - February 15, 2008

    What if we just dressed up winemakers, put them on the back of cows, distributed Sonoma Jack Cheese to the crowd, and watched them parade around the plaza?

  3. Thomas Pellechia - February 15, 2008

    Looks to me like the cows should form a union. The people have umbrellas, but the cows have useless flowers to protect them from the rain…
    Tom, maybe we could organize a WSWA parade…should we give them an animal-moniker?

  4. Wine and Food Pairing - February 15, 2008

    I love cultural festival like these, too. Thanks for the wonderful photo, it’s worth a thousand words to the story.
    There are so many cal-ital wineries around, is there a grape harvest festival in Italy that we could reinvent, California-style?
    Kathleen Lisson

  5. Richard Smith - February 15, 2008

    Another great cheese event is the annual Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England. I have never been but would love to one day. Like the running of the Bulls in Pamplona, but with cheese!

  6. Matthew Apsokardu - February 15, 2008

    The campiness is what makes it so fun. I went to goat races once in mid-state PA. There was beer, goat racing, german foods, and beer.
    What a time.

  7. el jefe - February 16, 2008

    Not too many years ago they would close highway 4 up here for a day and drive the cattle back down from the high country where they had been grazing all summer. As far as I know the cattle were not decorated – but many a wayward cow would find their way into local bars and businesses here in Murphys (CA). So I am told anyway… I harbor a secret desire to one day restart this tradition!

  8. Steve - February 16, 2008

    If the picture is an accurate reflection, it is probably a good time for sure.

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