All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Unchain the Gorgonzola....


Costa Rica is not famed for the variety or quality of its cheese and a first glance at the vast slabs of white cheese on the stalls is not encouraging.
Vast slabs of smoked white cheese do not offer encouragement either, while the yellow slabs of what is fancifully called mozzarella would have a native of Naples turn her face to the wall.

There are attempts at hard cheese, by the near monopoly dairy companies Dos Pinos and Monteverde...but the resemblance to the names claimed on the packaging  is distant and the prices such  as to induce apoplexy.

The upmarket supermarkets have imported cheese on their shelves.....and are proud of their range of Gouda....but on the whole the picture is grim for cheeselovers.

I have found one man making super European style cheese in the hills round the Turrialba volcano....though the sulphur fumes from its increased activity make him doubt for how much longer his pastures will be fit for grazing.....but apart from that I now rely on buying full cream cheese in rounds from a lady at the Plaza Viquez market, draining it, then washing it in fortified wine or rum every day and keeping it in the 'fridge betweentimes, wrapped in cheesecloth.
Three months later I have something worth eating.

So, given the situation, the trip to France and the U.K. will be a chance to eat proper cheese again, and to buy to bring back.

I thought it was all so easy...

Goat cheese logs - the cheapo cheapo ones from Super U - which keep for ages until becoming deliquescent enough to eat, the skin peeling off naturally; 
Fournol in its round russet coat;
Maroilles, that deep red brick with a smell that would flype your socks;
St. Agur, the creamy blue so disdained by cheese snobs;
Buy whole or halves of each for the suitcase and I was away.

That was it...until you chimed in and now, even before I hit a cheese counter, the claims of Pont l'Eveque, Comte, Bleu de Sassenage, Bleu de Bresse, Bleu d'Auvergne, Cantal and St. Nectaire are before me...not to speak of my since thinking of Salers, Fleur d'Aunis and the Mizotte du Vendee, let alone contemplating buying Tomme de Laguiole to make aligot.

My area of France was not blessed as regards cheese....goat cheese aplenty from local suppliers, the discs of 'crotte de chevre,' if allowed to dry out, being dropped into eau de vie for a month or two and eaten as an aperitif, but no specialist cheese shop within easy reach and the supermarkets distinctly variable as, like the fish and charcuterie sectors, these were run on sub franchises...obliged to take and present the 'promotions' of the central supermarket supply chain, be it Leclerc, Super U or Champion, but for the rest being left to their own initiative.

So I could be happily buying a soft textured tomme de chevre for months, then on my next visit find that the only goat offering was a chalky white ball from the Netherlands. The franchise would have changed hands.
Not that the Dutch can't make good cheese...it just never seems to make it to France...any more than do the  wonderfully aromatic Herve, the creamy Passendale and the sharp Brusselae Kaas from  Belgium.

The markets?
There was one good stall in the local town market whose Roquefort wasn't over salty and who sold a good ewe's milk tomme...d'Agour, if I remember rightly.....and whose Camembert was never ammoniac. But he was pricey.....and I only went to the market there for the stall selling small purple artichokes for deep frying.

Friends with a holiday house nearby used to go every week while they were in residence, going home laden with small rounds of Camembert to last them until the next trip.....returning once with proof positive that when the cheese man said his Camembert was made from unpasteurised milk...lait cru...it was.

Although having made his pile and retired, our friend used to like to give a hand in the family business and would cover for illnesses and holidays.
Working thus on the lorry reception area, he provided himself with a snack.
A bun with a whole small Camembert within.....not for him 'society sandwiches - six to a mouthful'.

He was enjoying his snack when a lorry arrived, so he put the bun on his desk to enjoy later and went to see to the reception procedures.
Returning some ten minutes' later, the bun and contents were where he had had left them, but his appetite had gone, for the bun lay open, two crescents marking his first bite, well into the cheese, where he now observed that maggots in quantity were disporting themselves.

So you will understand if I don't buy any Camembert.

In any case, I have to leave room for the Stilton....and the Wensleydale....and perhaps a proper Gorgonzola.




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34 comments:

  1. I a glad to see that the Stilton and Wensleydale have not been forgotten. The French are not the only ones who can make cheese.

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    1. Indeed they are not.
      British cheese takes a lot of beating...and I'm wondering if Sage Derby is still around...

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  2. I foresee the customs officers giving your luggage a very wide berth on your return, Fly. :-)

    In my experience French people once introduced to good British cheese become big fans. Sage Derby is certainly still made, but not in great quantity, so is hard to find. I like a good crumbly Lancashire myself, but then I would....

    PS You are expanding my Scots vocabulary by leaps and bounds. I just had to Google 'flype'.

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    1. The only risk is that the suitcases will fly up onto the scanner under their own cheesy volition....

      Flype popped into my mind as I was writing the sentence...nothing else could explain so clearly the effect of a ripe Maroilles on the system.

      Yes, I agree, French friends loved British cheese when it was offered them.

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  3. No mention of Cheese Strings or Dairylea?!?!

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    1. Nor even la Vache qui Rit...
      I stand reproved...am off to the naughty step...

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  4. Great post. I am surprised that Dutch cheese doesn't get to France. We get some here in Quebec, Canada, and it is quite good. I love cheese...just not the pungent ones. I like sharp cheddar, Edam, Camembert, Brie, Provolone...:)

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    1. Some Gouda and Edam...but nothing special....
      I hope I haven't put you off Camembert...

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  5. Oh yuk, you've put me off Camembert now! I love cheese and am constantly disappointed with the Turkish varieties of cheese. Occasionally I find one I like, but when I return to the shop they either no longer have it or if they do, it somehow tastes different. I usually bring back some mature cheddar, brie, and caerphilly from my trips to the UK. Ooh my mouth is watering now.

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    1. I haven't eaten Caerphilly for years....and the more I think and the more people suggest the worse this is getting.
      I'll take back Mr. Fly's favourites...and try the rest myself while i'm in europe!

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  6. I must be a pleb; I love St Agur

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    1. I rfemember cheese being discussed by the 'helping hands' ladies of my area...St. Agur was, it seems, 'commercial', whatever that might mean...

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    2. You're not alone, Mark. Commercial or not, it's a very moreish cheese. :-)

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    3. Amazing how snobby people can be about something which is, after all, just food!

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  7. I love a super mature Cheddar. We can even get Cathedral Cheddar in Carrouf here. That's the only Brit cheese available though. It makes far better cheese on toast than emmental or Comté imo.

    My DB loves Brit cheese too, the ones I take back from specialist cheese shops which are incredibly tasty. And he's a big Stilton fan, which he prefers to French blues.

    Sounds like you have some hard decisions to make!

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    Replies
    1. Well, I have now...Mr. Fly's favourites come back with me...the rest I'll sample as I go along....more avoirdupois, but I can't see myself zumbaing...

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  8. I'll second the Comte. Carrefour's been stocking a really nice one au lait cru recently...(no maggots, I checked).

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    1. That one will certainly be on the take home list...

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  9. Dear lady, be sure not to forget the Brie de Meaux Dongé and Scottish oatcakes! They always go down very well after a hearty meal amongst friends.

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    1. The oatcakes are on the list....I find they help the after effects of the recipe timing mechanism too...

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  10. Pretty incredible how we Europeans can get so excited and chauvinistic about something as simple as cheeeeese !!

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  11. Also, sounds like you're going to need a "Ryanair" coat. I have one specially for travelling Ryanair. It has masses of large pockets and almost weighs more than I do once "packed", but so far hasn't been banned/charged for.

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    Replies
    1. I'm looking for it in the stuff that's packed away....
      Great minds....

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  12. George Orwell reckoned the British made some of the best cheeses, arguing coincidentally that Stilton and Wensleydale were the two best of their type in the world. So yes, stick to British.

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    1. My father knew Orwell...and had no great opinion of the man...but I think he got it right about cheese, if not about Spain.

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  13. The only time that Nigel tried to take cheese back from France they removed it from his suitcase for him so beware. Foot and mouth and all that....
    We did take some back to the UK when we cycled over to France about 8 years back. All went well until we stayed at a B and B in Winchester and took in our saddle bags. We ended up having to apologise for the smell in the bedroom LOL. Slightly embarrassing at the time. Take care Diane

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I checked what I could bring in with Customs here...they reckon cheese is o.k. - but I'm keeping their reply in my handbag just in case!

      I did laugh about your cycling adventure..cheese has a way of making itself felt, doesn't it.

      Belgian cousins brought down some Herve for us...wraped in greaseproof, plastic and a tin box. They had hardly hit Paris before they were accusing the boys of taking their shoes off and when we opened the car door on their arrival it smelt as if something had died in there, even though they had been travelling with the windows open...

      The cheese, however, was wonderful!

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  14. Makes me think of Three Men in a BOAT when the author recounts the time he took 2 cheeses from Liverpool to London.
    I always used Wensleydale under the "lid" of apple pie.
    I'm off to have a chunk of Cheddar with an apple...

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    1. So if you buy wine on an apple and sell it with cheese you can be both buying and selling...

      Yes, the three men in a boat story comes back to me now...

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  15. God I love Cheese! But sometimes it doesn't like me.... if you follow...
    My ma in law brought a massive slab of cheese over from England years ago. It looked like a block of Semtex! Cheshire I think it was. How the sniffer dogs never sussed it I don't know. She also had a frozen ham in her suitcase!
    These days she only brings Cadbury's chocolate.
    :D

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    1. Customs puzzle me.

      One year when we returned from holidaying in Costa Rica we had most of a fillet in the freezer.
      Rather than try to eat the whole blasted thing, we took it home in a carry on bag.
      No one took any notice of it going aboard...well, it was leaving the country, wasn't it.....U.S. customs only asked us if we had fruit and confiscated the orange we produced....and when we reached Amsterdam no one took any notice either, even though by then the thing had defrosted and was dripping blood as we moved through Customs.

      We could have had a severed head in there for all they cared....

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  16. Your suitcase will stink to high heaven, unless it walks off on its own accord.

    So much cheese! I am dairy intolerant.
    I wonder, does no one send cheese as mail order?

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    1. I'm hoping for seasonally cool weather, night travel and the use of mother's 'fridge.
      I'll be buying cheese under ripe too, except the Stilton....

      But if we get a heatwave that suitcase wil be 'made for walking'....and if I can get a bit of Herve it will clear the airport!

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