x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Novak Djokovic reveals truth behind 'donkey cheese' claims

The world No 1 was bemused by claims he had snapped up the world's supply of pule cheese, Steve Elling explains.

Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, is as amused about the existence of donkey cheese as he is about the buzz around a story that he was planning on buying some for his restaurant in native Serbia. Tony McDonough / EPA
Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, is as amused about the existence of donkey cheese as he is about the buzz around a story that he was planning on buying some for his restaurant in native Serbia. Tony McDonough / EPA

During an admittedly brief off-season, one story generated more internet headlines than any other in tennis. Or, rather, any tennis-related story. It is not often that images of Burro Burritos or Melted Mule sandwiches come to mind.

Thus, when it was learnt that Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, was attempting to corner the production stock of a farm in his native Serbia that specialises in producing a rare form of cheese, the laughs began rolling in from around the world.

The farm makes "donkey cheese", a dairy product sometimes referred to as "pule" cheese and found only in the Balkans.

The familiar beasts of burden are the source of the milk. Who knew you could milk a donkey? Or would want to? Djokovic did not, but when the opportunity arose for his restaurant to secure a supply of the pricey fare – it reportedly costs about €1,000 (Dh4,780) per kilogram – he champed at the bit.

When Djokovic was in Abu Dhabi, he expressed surprise that word of the deal had leaked out, that anybody cared, and that the reaction was received with sniggers round the world.

So before moving on to the serious tennis topics of 2013, the Serbian star explained what really transpired.

"It is not completely true that we bought the whole supply of donkey cheese, even though it is the first time in my life that I heard that donkey cheese exists," Djokovic told reporters in the capital.

"There is a certain farm in Serbia that produces this donkey cheese and, as I understand it, it is the only farm in the world, which is very interesting. They came to our restaurant and they offered the operation.

"We are now thinking and seeing what we can do with that. But it is not true that I bought the whole supply. But if I do, I will definitely send you some cheese to try."

Djokovic said he had heard that some people find donkey cheese to be delicious: it has been described as "white, crumbly, and very, very rich".

Each litre of cheese requires 25 litres of donkey milk to make, and the farm he has purchased in Serbia milks the donkeys several times daily.

How would he describe donkey cheese? "I really didn't know," he said. "As I understand it, it is incredible quality. I have not tried it yet, but I am looking forward to it, because it is such an interesting story, right?"

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