SHARE
COPY LINK

LIVING IN FRANCE

Daily dilemmas: Roquefort v Camembert in the battle of the cheeses

Former French president Charles de Gaulle's famous line 'how can you govern a country that has 246 different types of cheese?' was intended as a lament on the difficulties of government, but also serves as a reminder of France's proud cheese heritage.

Daily dilemmas: Roquefort v Camembert in the battle of the cheeses
Photo: AFP

Today it's thought that there are nearer 1,000 different types of cheese in France, grouped into eight types, and each region is fiercely proud of its fromage traditions.

For our daily dilemmas poll we selected Roquefort, a southern classic and the daddy of all blue cheeses, to go head-to-head with Normandy's most famous export – Camembert. 

READ ALSO

Roquefort being aged in caves at Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Photo: AFP

So two very different types of cheese from the soft and smooth Camembert to the more muscular Roquefort – and a hands down victory for the northerner.

Twitter chalked up a 65 percent victory for Camembert.

 

While on Facebook 62 percent of people said they preferred Camembert, although there were a lot of supportive comments for the defeated Roquefort.

Shane Thomas commented: “Roquefort with a glass of gewurtz Is a match made in heaven!”

While Marc Lassort added: “Finally – a page that gives full credit to Roquefort!”

Of course that didn't stop our readers making their own cheese suggestions with Tete de moine, brie, Saint Nectaire, Truffle brie de melun, comté and Ste Maure goat cheese just a few of the alternatives offered up.

Meanwhile many people went for the best option – both.

While Roquefort may have lost the poll, it can console itself that it has the most romantic origin story.

The tale goes that a young shepherd boy left his lunch of bread and sheep's milk cheese in a cave while he pursued a local girl he had fallen head over heels in love with. When, many months later, he came back to the area he found his lunch still in the cave and the cheese transformed into a strong-tasting blue by the growth of mould.

While this sounds a little unlikely (surely anyone who found abandoned, mould-covered food would just bin it?) it's certainly true that all Roquefort is still produced in the Combalou series of caves near the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in south west France.

Cheesemakers say the caves' special combination of a cool damp atmosphere and drafts running through the cracks in the rock encourage the perfect mould growth to give the cheese its distinctive flavour.

The sheep's milk cheese has been made in the region for centuries, but it was given a royal charter by  King Charles VI on June 3rd 1411.

The caves are open to the public and you can have a guided tour, watch the cheeses go through the famously strict maturing process and, of course, enjoy a tasting session.

READ ALSO Roquefort: A 600-year love affair with smelly French cheese


Normandy's lush grass produces high quality milk. Photo: AFP

Camembert is a relative youngster in the French cheese scene, not appearing in written records until the 18th century.

However it has rapidly made up for lost time, becoming one of the most widely sold French cheeses on the market with almost 70,000 tonnes sold every year.

Traditionally made with unpasturised cow's milk, these days more and more producers use pasturised milk and in 2018 – after a bitter decades long battle – cheese made with unpasturised milk was allowed to be labelled 'Normandy Camembert'.

In order to qualify for the Normandy label it must not only be made in Normandy, at least 30 per cent of the milk used in it must come from cows that have been grazing on Normandy's famously lush grassland.

You might think it tastes basically the same as Brie, but it's probably best not to mention that in Normandy which is fiercely proud of its local product. Brie, on the other hand, is generally produced in the Seine-et-Marne area.

As well as the location, Brie differs from Camembert in that it's generally made in big wheels and served in slices, while Camembert is ripened whole, which gives it a stronger taste and smell, although both cheeses could politely be described as 'aromatic'.

READ ALSO Truce called in the French cheese wars over camembert milk

 

Member comments

  1. Comte, the very first cheese I introduce to Americans. Always, at any age, very good. Now most americans have never had real french Camembert. Over here it does taste like Brie, a stronger flavored Brie. Camembert in France is another story. When ripe it will smell up your whole kitchen, but it tastes SO GOOD 🙂

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

MONEY

Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France’s finance stamps

If you're doing a French admin task, you might be asked to provide a 'timbre fiscale' - here's what these are and how to get them.

Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France's finance stamps

In France, you can buy  a very particular kind of stamp to cover the cost of a titre de séjour, or French passport, to pay your taxes, get an ID card if you’re eligible, or pay for your driving licence.

Basically a timbre fiscale is a way of paying a fee to the government, and some online processes – such as the tax offices – now have the more modern method of a bank transfer or card payment.

However there are plenty of official tasks that still demand a timbre fiscale.

In the pre-internet days, this was a way of sending money safely and securely to the government and involved an actual physical stamp – you bought stamps to the value of the money you owned, stuck them onto a card and posted them to government office.

They could be used for anything from paying your taxes to fees for administrative processes like getting a new passport or residency card.

These days the stamps are digital. You will receive, instead, either a pdf document with a QR code that can be scanned from a phone or tablet, or an SMS with a unique 16-digit figure. Both will be accepted by the agency you are dealing with.

Once you have the code you need, you can add this to any online process that requires timbre fiscaux (the plural) and that will complete your dossier.

You can buy them from a properly equipped tabac, at your nearest trésorerie, or online

Paper stamps remain available in France’s overseas départements, but have been gradually phased out in mainland France.

SHOW COMMENTS