The French do many, many things extremely well, but one of the things that they do best is cheese. Is a horrible stinky pile of half rotten dairy the first thing that you think of when you hear the words “French cheese”? If you said yes, then I am here to tell you that you need to look…or smell…or taste…or whatever…beyond the stink. Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge a cheese by its stink. The cheese in France is unlike any I have tasted elsewhere. There is just such a full, incredible flavour. Part of this might be due to the fact that cheese in France is sometimes made from unpasteurised milk, which adds a whole different dimension to the flavour that simply cannot be found in pasteurised milk. I remember the first time I tried a proper French cheese, I was stunned that parts of my tongue were activated that I didn’t even know existed. I experienced flavours unlike any I had ever tasted before. I guess you could say it was love at first bite.
Having been a cheese fiend my whole life, when I moved to France, I quickly realised that I was in cheese heaven. For cheese lovers, there is literally no better place on earth than France. It didn’t take long for the cheese vendors near my home and my office to recognise me as a regular customer, and to become familiar with my preferred cheeses. One time, I was at a cheese bar near my home with my dad who was visiting. Being concerned that he would be mistaken as my sugar daddy, he tried explaining to the owner in broken French that I was his daughter, and that I live in the neighbourhood. The owner replied that he of course knew that I live in the neighbourhood because I come by so often, and started listing off my favourite cheeses as proof. Even just the other day, I popped in at the market near my office to buy some cheese for lunch at my favourite cheese stand, and the lady who worked there asked me where I had been (I had been away in Canada for a couple of months). I swear if I ever go missing, my cheese dealers would be the first to notice.
In France, there are hundreds of varieties of cheese, although I wish I could give you an exact number, but my research suggested that a range of 300 to 1000 cheese varieties exist in France, which isn’t terribly specific. I think that what we can take away from this is that there are A LOT of French cheeses. There are goat cheeses (chèvres), sheep’s milk cheeses, cow’s milk cheeses, cheeses made from a mixture of milks from different animals (I didn’t know you could do that!), blue cheeses, sharp cheeses, mild cheeses, hard cheeses, creamy soft cheeses…literally anything you could ever imagine and beyond. The world of French cheese is vast, and I want to share it with you.
I want to share my passion for French cheese, so I have decided to challenge myself to try as many varieties as I can possibly get my hands on. Every time I try a new cheese, I want to document it. I want to build a catalog of sorts that I can share with anyone else who shares my interest in cheese. In short, I want to be a cheesefluencer. My goal will not only be to share a description and pictures of each cheese I try, but also to give a bit of background to the story behind each cheese and the region where it is produced. In France, food including cheese is often rooted in the heritage, culture, and history of the region where it comes from, and there can sometimes be interesting legends associated with it.
I hope that this gastronomic journey turns out to be both educational and entertaining for anyone who follows along, and that it helps you build the ultimate cheese board for the next time you want to impress party guests. Even if you want to keep all the cheese for yourself and enjoy it without any competition, I won’t judge…I’ve been there too.