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Say Cheeese

You can never really know a place until you eat its food, and I'm getting to know France very well indeed. During my two-day trip to the Alps I took in more calories than my whole family did... put together...  that whole week.  As I exaggerate here for effect, I'm getting a little scared because I think it could actually be true!  Cheese was the main ingredient in all the meals during this visit.  I realised why on the second day when my snow-walk was cancelled and I ended up at a local farm instead.

It was very cold out so the cows were gathered in a hanger-like barn mooing and no doubt making fun of us as we entered.  Their conversation wouldn't be difficult to fill: with us walking in with our cameras, wide-eyed intrigue and - because we're trying to smile at the farmer and simultaneously put up with the imposing smell of the countryside - we had the most ridiculous expressions imaginable on our faces!  I scared myself to a jump when I saw my reflection.

I love real cheese as much as I hate it in conversation.  It made seeing this place even more interesting... It's where it all happens. We had a tour of where the cows slept, where (and how) they were milked, the equipment involved was described to us - perhaps in unnecessary detail - and we closed the afternoon by tasting  the wonderful locally produced cheeses with, for some, wine from a nearby region. 

The above cheese was my favourite on the day.  It's called Reblochon, and its existence remained the secret knowledge of people in the villages of this area.  Druing the Middle Ages, tax in Haute-Savoie was collected partly with milk production. They sneaky farmers didn't milk their cows dry. After the officials were satisfied and left, the cows were miked again.  The resulting milk (lait de rebloche) was extremely rich and until today it's used to make this fascinating cheese.  The milk (unpasteurised) is left to set and then moved into the other room where it's turned every two days.  Reblouchon is ready in a few days, a short production time for such a fantastic flavour.  Its texture is perfection: just a little softer than brie without being too soft.  The aftertaste is perfect but the smell takes a bit of getting used to - even for me!

Because I was flying back via Geneva, I couldn't buy any Reblouchon for us to enjoy at home.  Instead I bought my second favourite: Abondance.  This too is an old cheese - nearly 800 years according to the maker.  It's made exclusively from whole raw milk and the cows have to be from Abondance or two other villages (I don't remember their names). It takes ninety days to mature but only lasts a few days when opened.  I brought it home and finished half a pound in a day.  Somehow it also became the piece that I used to describe to my children what 'cutting the cheese' means in immature conversations. 

If you're not a cheese fan, this was not the post for you (sorry); if you are a cheese fan then I'm even more sorry.

Reader Comments (4)

Nice post as usual! If only technology had advanced far enough to let us smell the fresh cheese while visually enjoying it although from your description I'd pass the Reblouchon :P

lol @ cutting the cheese!

April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMathai

cheesy indeed! :) the last one didnt get a very favourable response from kids at home!! blue is the uniform in general, or mebe a particular brand.
shocked pleasantly to see the no. of posts! ;)

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteronlooker

:) I think that's wise...

I didn't get the last one's name. It was not bad though - kind of spicy which is never a bad thing.

April 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterBuYousef

Honestly that cheese looks so good right now!

April 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarzouq

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