“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”– Charles de Gaulle
If Charles de Gaulle were alive today, he would be shocked to know that in France there are now 350-400 different types of cheese. It is said a French person consumes approximately 53 pounds of cheese per person annually. So obviously, we know the French love their cheese, but how far does it really go?
To say France’s environment and soil is perfect for making cheese would be an understatement.
Although France is only slightly smaller than Texas, it has climates that run the gamut, and every part of each climate is vital to the differences in the flavor of milk from the goats, sheep, and cows that produce the variety of cheeses found across the country.
Every true French meal also has a cheese course which is between the main course and the dessert. At least three different cheeses are usually presented, all three with a different style or type of milk, along with a bread. Some people add preserves, fresh fruit, or honey to the plate as well, especially when it is replacing the dessert course.
I recently explored fromage at a local cheese cellar in Strasbourg, L’Epicier Grand Cru. In this small boutique shop, I was surprised to find that their cheese cellar consisted of about 150 different cheeses- and I was only allowed to pick 15! The struggle was real.
My group of four finally settled on the cheeses in these photos. I let them pick first because they seemed a little more picky, whereas I was all about the more adventurous choices- lavender gouda, raclette, morbier, and the most famous cheese of the Alsace region, munster.
The munster was… pungent, to say the least, but the flavor was not as overpowering as we expected. I had previously tried it melted on a hamburger and, safe to say, I definitely prefer my munster melted. The favorite of the day was the goat cheese with fig in the center, a fellow student, Charley, and I could’ve eaten that all day.
Tasting only 15 French cheeses made me a believer. The French have created laws governing their agricultural products, cheese being at the top of this list. The appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) is necessary to control the fidelity of these prized possessions. After going into a cheese coma, I can guarantee that this is only the beginning of my love affair with French cheese