Cheese is a typically Dutch product. This is often reflected by its packaging, which shows idealised images of its origins and how it is made: Frau Antje, contented cows and traditional farming practices. This project does not overlook how cheese has played a key role in the Dutch landscape and gastronomic culture, economy and image. But we also dig deeper: what lies behind these stereotypical images of cheese? What else is associated with the (changing) practices relating to cheese and cows? How have these helped to shape the Netherlands? And that brings us to cheese-tasting and European quality marks for Gouda, getting dung and lukewarm milk on one’s hands during milking, galloping wild cattle in Netherlands New Guinea, how women used to play a key role in cheese-making, manure surpluses and CO2.
A coherent analysis of the symbols and practices surrounding Dutch cheese can help us to understand the ‘marketing’ of Dutch identity, the history of the Dutch landscape as a fragile balance between land, livestock and people, the identification of Holland with the whole of the Netherlands, and the history of gender and labour. The Netherlands is revealed in many forms. Although they do not always comprise a given unit, they can cross national borders, and they can be rife with problems or fracture-lines, they are related in a specific and characteristic way.