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A little less than a happy high
A proper palate
Recently, while he and I were talking as men do, Drew shared that he thought my ideal cheese would be one made from milk that had been harvested from cross-eyed goats by a club-footed dwarf - who may or may not have been with the Résistance in WWII - under the new moon in April, and which was then aged for 18 months in caves that had been used in paleolithic fertility rites. (I'll admit that I'm not remembering the finer details.) In spite of the hyperbole, he's right. I'm fascinated by food with story, especially when the story takes on something of a life of its own.

One such story was told at the first tasting I went to, about a French blue called Bleu de Termignon. According to the gentleman who introduced us to it, it's made by a 91 year-old woman in Alps from the milk of her nine cows. As legend has it, the cheese had changed significantly over the past decade as the woman aged because she no longer had the strength to hand-spike the wheels as deeply (which allows oxygen into the wheel to foster growth of the mold.) I've since learned that this story is a good 15-20 years old, and that in that time, the old woman and her nine cows have not aged one whit. Apparently, there are now several families with 100 or so cows that have taken to preserving this small-production cheese. Still, the story lives on.

cayetana passed on a book by Dorling Kindersley titled, simply, French Cheeses (which I love, btw... danke.) In it, the passage about Bleu de Termignon includes:

This is an outstanding cheese of great quality, a little fatty, natural and down-to-earth, made by just one woman in very limited quantities, in a chalet d'alpage. She keeps her nine cows high up in the National Park of Vanoise, where the animals feed on grass and flowers.

The book was revised and reprinted in 2000.

I've no doubt that the little old French woman really existed. I also have no doubt that the story will still be told 15-20 years from now. It's a legend that fires the imagination. I'll be the first to admit that I was taken by the fantasy of trekking off into the hills to study at the feet of this old woman and her nine cows so that her cottage tradition would not be lost. The story gave the cheese life, and that's as it should be.
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From: corvus_coronis Date: January 7th, 2005 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)
There was an entomological (etc) series running on SBS Australia called "Little Buggers", one episode was devoted to mites & had a scene of an elderly French couple who had been hand-rearing cheese mites all their life, watching a micro-close up film of their livestock in action. They said it was one of the most delightful things they had ever seen.
komos From: komos Date: January 7th, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not too long ago, a friend of mine shard information he had learned on the Discovery channel about how cheese - not "normal" cheese, but "really fancy" cheese - had all of these microscopic critters running around on them. I think he expected me to be scandalized, but I just nodded and said, "Yeah... they're an important part of the aging process."

"But you eat them!"

"I know, and I find them quite tasty..."
From: missmelysse Date: January 7th, 2005 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I live for cheese. As a child, they called me a cheese fiend. So you can imagine how much I love your posts about cheese...except that they make me want to go raid gourmet shops.

komos From: komos Date: January 7th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
By all means, do! And be sure to ask for the rarest, strangest cheeses you can think of.

Glad you're enjoying these. ^_^
khourytamarisk From: khourytamarisk Date: January 7th, 2005 02:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Behold the power of cheese.

Sorry, someone had to say it and I guess it had to be me... ;D
komos From: komos Date: January 7th, 2005 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's really more about the power of legend, but sure...
khourytamarisk From: khourytamarisk Date: January 7th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Legends of Cheese!

I think we may have unintentionally stumbled across a new title for a munchkin gaming session. ;D
komos From: komos Date: January 7th, 2005 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
It would be especially fitting if most of the players were "gaming" the rules.
sassyinkpen From: sassyinkpen Date: January 7th, 2005 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting post - especially as I got a couple of food-story kinds of books from my sister for Christmas.

The first is The Nero Wolfe cookbook - hysterically interesting and I would cook myself a fine meal to eat in the Library while reading Fleur de Lance, but I have yet to find a recipe in which I can identify all the ingredients/cooking techniques!

The second is The Secrets of Pistolet, which is very odd and arty with various recipes (involved in the story) tucked into little envelopes on the page, which you can take out to cook. The instructions usually include what type of music you should play while cooking...and the personality of the people you should buy the food from...
komos From: komos Date: January 7th, 2005 03:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of my favorite cookbooks is called French Country Cooking but Ann Hughes-Gilbey, and has earned my esteem because the author often leaves much to guesswork. A recipe for a type of bean soup, for example, is sketched out, and then the text goes off on tangents about regional variants without really explaining amounts or methods. It's brilliant for the way that I use cookbooks, but given that most people prefer not to template, I can understand why I found it in a bargain rack.

Both sound fascinating, especially since they seem to suggest a food as an experience. There's a reverence inherent to that kind of approach that's all too often lost.
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