De Gaulle asked " How can you govern a country with two hundred and forty six varieties of cheese?". The Joy of Cheese is one of the great glories of France; the terroir, the weather, the altitude, the livestock are all captured in those delicious regional varieties. One can journey from Flanders to the Pyrenees, from Brittany to Alsace on a cheeseboard. As I write I am almost salivating at the remembered forest-floor taste of Saint-Nectaire and the salty bite of ripe Roquefort. We Brits have learned to love French cheese; Brie de Meaux and Camembert are even sold in polystyrene ersatz versions in British supermarkets. I am prepared to forgive French farmers almost anything for standing up to the supermarkets and big distributors, for making cheeses in farm kitchens in which poultry roam at will, for wisps of hay on the rind, for using raw milk still warm from the udder.Now comes news today that only Camembert made with raw unpasteurised milk will be allowed to be called such. My heart is singing with joy, and there's a skip in my step as I go to refill the cafetiere with pungent aromatic French coffee. The world has, in a very small way, just got a little bit better. Aaaaah.
But perhaps Nanny's reach extends now even unto La France Profonde. The Telegraph reports today that Camembert may disappear from the world. No, not the plastic pasteurised tasteless stuff from Tesco, but the real raw cheese made from raw milk. The cheese that glistens and bulges from its rind on the cheeseboard, a living small God of microbacterial activity, an irresistible meal-end squidge. This is a threat to our common human heritage every bit as great as that of a Taliban with a stick of gelignite and a Buddha statue in sight.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
A victory for Civilisation!
On June 7th last year I wrote: