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FRENCH TRADITIONS

Grated Camembert! Who said the French were stuck in their ways?

A food company from Brittany has come up with an inventive product that gives a new twist to one of the country's most sacred cheeses. But will the French turn their noses up at it?

Grated Camembert! Who said the French were stuck in their ways?
Photo: AFP/AB Technologies
It seems more like something you'd find on the shelves of a Tesco supermarket in the UK  – the home of the straight croissant – rather than something the French would actually invent themselves. 
 
But on Tuesday an industrial food company from Brittany, in northern France unveiled a new way of serving up one of France's softest and smelliest cheeses.
 
Grated Camembert. Will the French ever swallow it?
 
It took Breton company AB Technologies Alimentaires six months to come up with the winning formula before they succeeded.
 
The reason it took so long was that they needed to come up with a way of hardening the soft cheese to be able to grate it without ruining the flavour. 
 

 
 

But why do it all, you might ask. 
 
“Today, the range of grated cheese is quite limited,” the company's marketing manager Françoise Chauvel told French newspaper l'Ouest France. 
 
“Emmental, Cantal … We wanted to offer something else and thought about Camembert. “
 
And according to the company, the cheese has multiple uses and can be used to grate on pasta, pizza or in sauces. They want to initially aim it at companies and those working in the food industry but will also sell it to the public in supermarkets if there proves to be a demand.
 
But many French Twitter users turned their noses up at the thought of grated Camembert.
 
“I just don't know what use it would have,” said one while another said “only the industrially produced fake Camembert cheeses will be able to be grated”.
 
However one tweeter praised the inventiveness of those in Brittany.
 
“Bretons have invented grated Camembert. One day they will rule the world,” said the tweeter.
 
But no doubt there will be cries of heresy from the neighbouring region of Normandy, which is home of the original Camembert.
 
“The Normans have pinched the Mont-Saint-Michel, so today we are stealing Camembert from them – in a grated version,” she said, referring to the fact that the famous abbey has been officially deemed to be in Normandy, despite Brittany's claims that it belongs to them. 
 
While the cheese is aimed at industrial food producers, the firm is open to the idea of selling it to the public if there is demand.
 
READ ALSO:
 
Fears in France that Camembert truce will lead to cheese ruin
 
 

CULTURE

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?

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