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How times have changed!

Remember Kraft cheese slices?

 

I used to call them “plastic cheese.”

 

You can still buy them, but they are not called a  “processed cheese product,”  for nothing.  There is simply not much cheese in them.*

(See ingredients list at bottom of the blog)

I grew up on grilled cheese sandwiches using Kraft singles. On fancy occasions, there was also real cheddar cheese usually from the UK that was served in fat orange cubes with toothpicks.

As I matured, I moved onto gouda, eventually to Camembert, Brie, and if I was being really adventurous, Roquefort, but most people I knew wouldn’t eat that.  Too smelly.

So when I landed in France in my early twenties, my head nearly exploded with the magnitude of cheeses that were available.

In 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle asked, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

Now, there are about 1,600 distinct types of French cheese, grouped into categories in what are called “les huit familles de fromage”|the eight cheese families. 

 Yeah, I know…wow! Overwhelming.

 

A small “fromagerie” in Paris

 

Having to decide with all those choices has kept me out of the local cheese shops|les fromageries when I am in France for too many years to count.

I always have chickened out and gone instead to the big supermarkets where I could hang over the display cases undisturbed. Even then, I never knew what to choose.

I speak French so the language was not the barrier, I was just too darn intimidated to venture into a specialty shop and approach the officious looking cheesemonger.

Where would I start?

What would I ask for?

Would I sound stupid?

I knew I was missing out because these shops buy from local farmers and not from the factories.  Their cheese selections are the finest in the world.

Le Fromage 101

When I get overwhelmed with all things French I consult my dear friend Astrid who lives in France, and she kindly gave me this mini-course in French cheese.

This first part is simple.  French cheese is made from the milk of a cow, goat, or sheep, and they are all popular.

 

Chèvre|Soft Goat Cheese

 

Then they vary in terms of texture and process.

Cheese from

Cow’s milk can be Dur|Hard, Pasteurized|Pasteurizé, and Bleu|Blue

From a Goat — Frais|Soft,  Très Frais| Very Soft,  Sec/Demi Sec|Dry and Semi-Dry

From Sheep — the same three apply as for goat cheese.

A well-garnished cheese platter consists of three to five cheeses choosing at least one from each source.

 

A well-balanced cheese plate

 

Cheese from Corsica

Astrid also told me cheese from Corsica (the Mediterranean island and collectivity of France), is only made from goat or sheep milk and considered a real treat.

They have unusual names like Filetta and U bel fiuritu, whatever that is.

She said if I wanted to impress the shopkeeper I should ask if they carry any cheese from Corsica because it is not always available.

I also got some great advice from my other French friends, Marie Christine and Francois.

They encouraged me to the cheese shop on my last day and buy some of their favourites to take home.  They even called ahead to make sure the shop would be open.

 

The most highly produced cheese in France!

 

 

So, armed with a list that included  Epoisses de Bourgogne, Comté, and Reblochon, I faced my fears. And guess what?

The vendor couldn’t have been nicer and was happy to help a neophyte like me.  I ended up staying about half an hour talking to this delightful and knowledgeable woman, who did not in the least worry that a line was forming behind me for her services. I have learned that too, to take my time, because, it is expected.  Nobody minds waiting.

By the time we finished, I had quite an assortment to slip into my suitcase including a Brie aux Truffes| Brie with truffles, now my new favourite.

 

Camembert aux truffes

 

*Note: Most of the cheeses I smuggled out (vacuum packed) were unpasteurized which are illegal in many countries like the U.S.

In my country, there is a strict limit which, I ignored this time without, thankfully, any repercussions.

On my next trip, I will stride confidently into “la fromagerie” right at the beginning of my trip and try all sorts of cow, goat, sheep, dur, frais, très frais until I burst or return home, whichever comes first!

 

*Ingredients in Kraft singles consist of cheddar cheese, whey, water, protein concentrate, milk, sodium citrate, calcium phosphate, milkfat, gelatin, salt, sodium phosphate, lactic acid (as a preservative), annatto and paprika extract (for color), enzymes, Vitamin A palmitate, cheese culture, and Vitamin D3.

 

Love to hear your comments!

I know most of you love cheese.  What is your favourite and where do you buy it?

 

Do NOT Miss Next Week’s Blog!

Because I have a special surprise for you!

 

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26 Comments

  1. Gretchen Greene O'Brien on October 4, 2020 at 8:10 am

    Thanks for the education about CHEESE … I really had no idea! I have several favourites – depending on my mood! Sweet Jarlsberg / a creamy Bleu / and of course, the old standby: Cheddar. I will experiment a bit more the next time I’m in a Cheese Shop – thanks to your tutorial!

    • Diana Bishop on October 4, 2020 at 11:46 am

      Yes a really old aged cheddar can be so delightful and once again I seem to have moved into the French
      cheeses and forgotten the good old standbys that I grew up on… and they have become so much more delicious.

      Thank for you comment Gretchen, my most loyal fan. Best to you, Diana

  2. Catherine Willis-O'Connor on October 4, 2020 at 8:41 am

    One of the finer dining moments of having a meal in France is the cheese course. I loved it. The smelliest, the gooiest the better, followed by a local digestif.
    Wonderful expose on cheese.
    Thank you.

    • Diana Bishop on October 4, 2020 at 11:44 am

      Hi Twink— I am little adverse to the really smelly cheese!
      I once bought a cheese so stinky, I couldn’t even keep it in the refrigerator. I threw it out!
      Jarlsberg is yummy though and I need to try that again.
      Thanks so much for the comment. Diana

      • Maggie Sutrov on October 5, 2020 at 1:43 am

        I love cheese but it does not love me so I savour my tidbits that I allow once in awhile. My preference is: the older and stronger the better. I will need to stop in and taste one of your smuggled cheeses one day.

        • Lagatta de Montréal on October 5, 2020 at 7:57 pm

          Do you have a cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Me too. I don’t touch cow’s milk even yoghourt or cheese nowadays. Goat and ewe’s cheese have far less lactose; but consult a doctor or other medical professional.

          Dut to that as a child, I’d never touched Kraft slices, or whatever they are called now. By the way, similar products exist in France and elsewhere in Europe.

        • Diana Bishop on October 6, 2020 at 11:20 am

          Like me you would probably do better with goat or sheep cheese! I think cow’s milk is harder on our system as we age — drat that but there are other options. Thanks so much for your comment Maggie!

  3. Dorothy Berry on October 4, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Love all sorts of cheese, one of my favourites is Abbott’s Gold, a strong , aged white cheddar filled with caramelized onions. I have purchased in local cheese shops in Collingwood and Thornbury.

    • Diana Bishop on October 4, 2020 at 11:41 am

      Ok, I am running out to get Abbott’s Gold Dorothy! Thank you for this cheese that I have never heard of!

      Great to hear from you! And thank you for the comment. I do love hearing from my readers. Diana

  4. Danielle St-Aubin on October 4, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Bonjour Diana. I have two favourite cheeses. There is, of course, my most favourite which is le Brie, which is the king of cheeses. And my second most favourite is… Le St-Aubin. But of course. Le Brie is most easily found in most stores, while le St-Aubin is only found in a few grocery stores and only once in a while. I have discovered a fromagerie way up in northern Ontario and look forward to visiting it upon my next visit. It is called La fromagerie Kapuskasing. They make their cheeses from local cow, goat and sheep milk. I look forward to visiting.

    • Diana Bishop on October 4, 2020 at 11:40 am

      Le St-Aubin — I have to look for that. Great to hear from you Danielle!
      Diana

  5. Erica Prinn-mccarthy on October 4, 2020 at 9:26 am

    I too love cheese, just about all! From an almost rude Stilton to a silky Brie Delice de Bourgogne. I had Comte for the first (and second and third lol) time in Paris. Delicious! I did see that we have Brie at trouffe at our local cheese shop in Collingwood. I have not tried that yet….
    Thank you for taking us back to Paris every Sunday.

    • Diana Bishop on October 4, 2020 at 11:39 am

      Oh I have not had Stilton for a while. Have to remember that. And I have bought the Brie aux truffes for our local Collingwood cheese shop. Very good!
      Great to hear from you Erin!

      • Lea on October 4, 2020 at 11:58 am

        Stilton with red pepper jelly is simply divine!

  6. Shelley White on October 4, 2020 at 10:11 am

    Diane,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. It wasn’t the least bit cheesy! I love cheese. I’m so glad that you were able to overcome your phobia., so that you could share your new found favourites with us. I’m going to see if I find them, or something similar, at the Cheese Boutique or St. Lawrence Market. Merci beaucoup!

    • Diana Bishop on October 4, 2020 at 11:36 am

      Shelly — how fabulous to hear from you! I hope you are doing well.

      I am sure you can find some exotic selections at St. Lawrence market — love that market…one of the best in the world.

      Best to you, and thank you so much for the comment. It means a lot to me.

      Diana

  7. Lagatta de Montréal on October 4, 2020 at 10:49 am

    I love cheese, but have to avoid cow’s milk in any form. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to find goat’s and ewe’s milk cheeses here in Montréal.

    An old-fashioned cheese factory and shop in Eastern Ontario… https://forfar.com/forfar-cheeses.php

    • Diana Bishop on October 4, 2020 at 11:37 am

      I prefer goat cheese but have never tried sheep yet. On my list. Montreal is certainly probably the second best place in the world to get French cheese. I do miss it. Diana

      • Lea on October 4, 2020 at 12:01 pm

        When in Montreal, detour to Oka Monastery. The monks make amazingly fabulous cheese. Their smoked cheeses are fantastic.

  8. Lea on October 4, 2020 at 11:57 am

    Ah French Cheese….when I lived in France we had a MONSTER cheese that was so smelly it was kept in the garden shed. Those who fancied a slice had to take their wine, bread and fruit to the shed for their indulgence.

    By the end of my stay in Paris, my legs were shaped like wedges of Brie (wide a the top and narrow at the bottom).

    There really is nothing more comforting that fabulous baguette with runny Brie sandwich, purchased from a street vendor. Mmmmmm.

  9. Margaret Ann Gendreau on October 4, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Good Morning Diana and thank you for another delightful Sunday morning read. We have a wonderful little cheese shop right down the street in the oddest semi industrial mall! They are very knowledgeable, cash only, bring your wine list and they’ll direct you to the perfect cheese or buy your cheeses and they’ll give you a wine list to compliment them. Such service! Keep well!

  10. Halina St James on October 4, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Hi Diana
    Neil and I have been going over to France regularly before covert. We go to the south west corner of France a region called Gers. We go to all the little villages and buy a lot of cheese. I used to be intimidated just like you. Then I just marched up and said to the vendor I don’t know what I’m doing …. could you recommend something. Before I knew what they were giving me all kinds of varieties and people behind me were making suggestions as well. It was a wonderful experience which led to a lot of delicious cheese tasting. Love your blogs. Hope you’re doing well.

    • Diana Bishop on October 6, 2020 at 11:22 am

      Halina!!! I am so thrilled to hear from you and that you are following my blog. I do hope you and Neil are well. I think of you so often.

      The southwestern part of France is becoming really popular with my friends — but I don’t know Gers.
      I can’t wait to get back to France where I now spend a great deal of my life. It is wonderful isn’t it?
      Thanks for the comment and best to you from another cheese lover!

  11. Shardie Stevenson on October 5, 2020 at 11:06 am

    I simply love the cheese shops in Paris …. but like you BFF , I’m usually on the outside , nose almost pressed against the glass , taking in the breathtaking array of cheese!
    I’m so happy that you ventured in armed with a bit of knowledge AND thrilled that you brought back that Brie with Truffles! A slice of heaven! ❤️

    • Diana Bishop on October 6, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Remember that wonderful cheese shop across the street from Cafe Charlot — our favourite bistro. We walked by it so many times without going in. Funny how we can be so intimidated with service where people actually want to help you — I guess we are so afraid of looking uninformed. But often just asking for help is the best way to start a meaningful conversation! When we go back to Paris, let’s head out first thing to la fromagerie!

  12. Lagatta de Montréal on October 5, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    By the way, there is no shame whatsoever in popping into a French supermarket or superette (smaller grocery) to pick up a cheese or two. Most French people do that when they are in a hurry. I’ve always been able to find cheese I could eat.

    Oh, I’d say Montréal might be third after Paris and Lyon. A hidden gem here is Portuguese cheeses, both ripened ones and extremely fresh ones (both cow and goat).

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