On the third and fourth week of the On My Plate challenge, we explore CLEAN food. Slow Food and the Slow Food Youth Network continue their journey through the tables of over 3,000 young people around the world.
«My brother and I often joke about why we decided to leave the metropolis in 2007 and move to the countryside, 300 kilometres from Moscow: We say that “After forty years you feel nostalgia for the farmland.” Well, it’s actually true: perhaps the peasant genes of our ancestors had awakened. » Eduard Yastrebov, together with his brother Gennady, now leads the Eko-Ferma farm in Kozlovo (in the Staritsky district, ‘Tver Oblast’) in the north-west of Russia.
There, the Yastrebov brothers raise cows and goats and produce cheese: «We moved for the simple desire to eat real, country food, and breathe clean air. We did not start with the idea of creating a commercial project nor did we think of producing cheese. There was a farm in Kozlovo: everyone went there to get milk; then one day, it closed. The idea came to my older brother Gennady: “Why don’t we raise the cows ourselves?”. And so, we did. We soon understood the importance and need to produce food that is not only for ourselves, but also for our friends and the people who live in this area. »
So, they decided to start a real farm and to open a cheese factory: «Milk, ricotta, sour cream, butter and of course cheeses: soft, semi-hard, hard… We produce them and sell them. »
«For me, above all, clean food means a natural product which comes from unpolluted soils and from healthy cows and goats, a food that has no chemicals or additives –Eduard continues –. In our case, the cheese travels along the road that goes from the grass on our fields to the hands of our customers. It is a work that gives those who produce the food a great responsibility, both for the other people and for themselves. The taste? It is still the same as what out grandparents used to make.»
The Yastrebov brothers’ passion for cheese – «we make them first and foremost because they are delicious! » – has taken them a long way. All the way to Bra to be exact, for the occasion of the 2019 edition of Slow Cheese, where they participated in a workshop on raw milk cheeses. They told us of their initial attempts and errors, and also of those who asked them to produce something similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, which is beloved in Russia. «We will never do it – they replied on that occasion – because real cheese is like authentic wine, it has the flavour of the place where it was born. » Therefore, the answer that Eduard gave us to the question of what a luxury meal is for him, is not surprising: «First of all, a simple and sincere dish that tastes good. Luxury is a joy of the simple things, the taste of a place… I believe that every place has its own luxury dishes! »