Vande Griend gets cheesy

Amanda Oberman – Guest Writer

It started again. Yelling, jumping and laughing. Her voice rose and her grin spread with each second. Another crumpled up $5 bill had made its way into her water buffalo fund.

Dordt College junior Anna Vande Griend wants to start a water buffalo farm.

Born and raised on a dairy farm, Vande Griend harbors a passion for dairy like her father, David, and aspires to make water buffalo cheese.

“It’s in his blood, and I guess it’s mine too,” Vande Griend said.

Water buffalo appealed to her because they are considered exoctic, and she enjoys being different.

Different, but not so different. In fact, water buffalo milk is what the first mozzarella cheese was made in Italy.  According to Vande Griend, the water buffalo’s milk high fat content make people prefer the taste of the water buffalo mozzarella over regular cow mozzarella.

“Once you go buffalo, you never go back,” Vande Griend said.

Last year, Vande Griend started making cheese after her aunts encouraged her to try making an easy cheese during their Christmas party. Not only did she make cheese, but she made cheese that had her cousins craving more.

Now, she makes every cheese from Gouda to cottage cheese in her East Campus apartment at Dordt.

One Saturday afternoon, Vande Griend flips through her cheese-making book and decides to make Gouda. She turns up her Spotify playlist consisting of pop and rock songs on her computer as she waits patiently for the water to heat to 90 degrees.

Once the water is properly heated, she puts in the renin, which makes the milk separate. The cheese becomes a mass of curd as the renin sets.

“It looks like milk, but then you tip it, and it’s solid. And it’s kinda gross, but it’s awesome,” Vande Griend said.

It’s an interesting combination of liquid and solid that she loves to show off.

Next, Vande Griend cuts the curd into squares and drains the whey to allow the curd to dry. Vande Griend has made a mess. Cooking utensils are strewn about. Water and cheese byproducts puddle on the surfaces surrounding her.

A wooden cheese press is used after the curd reaches the correct temperature. Nothing elaborate, and something that has a tendency to tilt, a potential problem if generally uniform-looking cheese is desired. Nevertheless, Vande Griend pours the cheese into a mold, places it under the press, and puts a weight on the end of the press’s arm.

Her job is finished for the day and she begins to clean up her mess, starting with a large pot that barely fits in the sink.

Vande Griend encounters many different reactions to her desire to own a water buffalo farm and her cheesemaking endeavors. Her cheesemaking has been encouraged, especially by her family, being dairy people themselves. Her mother Betty reads into how cheesemaking works. Her father takes interest in whatever she does or makes. Her three brothers help out while one sister-in-law wants to join up to make and sell cheese.

And possibly ice cream.

Her water buffalo farm dream generates a wide variety of reactions. Kaira Krommendyk, one of her roommates, thought Vande Griend was joking when she first mentioned she wanted to start a water buffalo farm.

Unlike other people, Krommendyk warmed up to the idea. “Who grows up and says they want to start a water buffalo farm? Anna. It’s great because it’s different,” she said.

Other people tell her that she won’t accomplish her goal because of its absurdity. But that just fuels her drive even more. As she talks about her water buffalo farm, she gets excited, throws her fist in the air and declares that she will start the farm just to show those who discourage her that they are wrong.

“I’m crazy,” she said, with a laugh.

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