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.