For her birthday, Annabel Onyango drives down to Brown’s Cheese Farm in Limuru for a leisurely afternoon of wine, cheese and fresh ice cream
I work in the fashion industry. It’s a career that often lives up to its stereotype – rivalry, cattiness, undercutting, plagiarism, narcissism, dodgy labour practices, wanton consumption, aggressive commercialism and plenty of hard-partying options. You’re trying to sell concepts and tangible things to people all the time. It’s generally a life as far removed from “organic” as you can imagine. So competitive and surface-level can fashion sometimes be, that you forget that there’s a whole other world out there that’s less plastic and shiny and more grounded and earthy.
When my birthday crept up on me, I decided it would be an ideal time to take a break from the usual. Note how I said “break” and not “escape”. I love my job way too much to abscond. It may have something to do with my gradual but steady approach into middle-age, but doing something entirely different from dressing up and going out was as appealing to me as ever.
The road to the Browns Cheese Farm in Limuru seemed like an endless one. For years I had attempted to book a lunch there; either they were fully booked, or my nonstop schedule of social and professional commitments just wouldn’t allow. As we navigated our way through the Tigoni countryside, I was surprised that the actual way there wasn’t as treacherous as I’d envisaged.
The farm is also smaller than I’d imagined– a compact family operation where factory and homestead converge into one. The house is simple and rustic but tasteful. The garden (where lunch and drinks are served) is a grassy gem with two dogs sprawled in the sunshine. Inside the factory where the cheese is made– everything is done using natural processes, all by hand. No chemicals. The chief input, milk, is sourced from farmers in the surrounding area.
Lunch was my favourite – a great big cheese board paired with chutneys and jams, home-baked rustic breads and crackers, and a glass of Sparkling Steen for me. Quoting Delia Stirling of Brown’s Cheese: “Sparkling wines, from dry to sweet, almost always work well. Their ample acidity and toasty, nutty flavours compliment cheeses from fresh through aged.” Lentil soup and warm salads followed. They cap it off with more wine and a dessert bar of Delia’s organic ice-cream and sorbet served in mason jars and made from seasonal ingredients grown on the property.
Even in fashion, artisanal production is becoming de rigeur. Consumers want products that are hand-made and have a fair-trade angle. They want goods made from materials sourced locally and by homegrown talent. I regularly buy Leleshwa from my local shop, because a) it’s the least overpriced bottle (I typically buy wine in bulk in a random panic when I realize there’s none left in the pantry) and b) the idea of buying wine made in Kenya gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.