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Cheese

First things first – la vache qui rit – I love this picture because she IS the laughing cow with her ostentatious earrings jangling.

That out of my system I can be serious. Or thereabouts. France is synonymous with Cheese as she is with Wine (and snails and frogs legs but lets not go there …) and it happens that the two go hand in hand. It also happens that I have many conversations with French people who laugh when I tell them that I had a Cheese Shop in England (Berkshire – specifically Streatley on Thames).  They say ‘What did you sell?  Sheedaah?’ … I produce a book. A book written by my father-in-law. Patrick Rance – Its called simply The French Cheese Book,  to be frank I can’t slip it in my handbag as it gives detailed descriptions and histories of over 790 cheeses across France. It is an opus magni by any standards. It was the sequel to The Great British Cheese Book, he being the father and protector of British Cheese – the reason you can buy all that good stuff all over the UK now and have been able to for over 25 years. But he was a Francophile – actually his ancestors were Hugeunots (de Rance) which may have helped the process despite the fact that he, in fact, was raised the son of a vicar, in the East End of London. If you have a moment,  listen to a passionate man who is now considered to be an ‘Food Icon’...its archived so like any p01h62h0archaeologist you have to dig, just a bit …. it’s worth it, well I think so – I loved that man – he and his wife, Janet were an utter inspiration to me and to my girls who were variously called The Cheesy Babies throughout their pre-school years ….

I am also, as it happens a Francophile who married another  – it helps. And I am, we are, unashamed in our love of French Stuff. Here in Cantal we have the ubiquitous Cantal and St Nectaire and Bleu D’Auvergne and Salers and across the Auvergne I can buy Bleu des Causses, Forme D’Ambert, Gaperon and a plethora of others. Not just Vache (lait cru) but Goat – they call the little disques cabecou and actually some brebis too.  These are my favourites and one day I intend to square the circle by having some sheep which my beloved Two Brains and I will will tend and allow to graze free-range and milk (this is where the friends of my husband are actually holding their breath and assuming I am more than half crazy) and we will make our own soft creamy brebis cheese with the help of those we have met who know how.  The beautious Salers cow in the picture gives the milk that most of those names are made from.  I shall write of them all if only as excuse to eat them all. When I go to my local market on a Thursday morning I hope upon hope that the lady with the goats will be there from an un-named bit near Ydes (less than 10 km from here – no different from any other village) and my local U (the equivalent of Spa in the UK) sells cheese – typically St Nectaire, Salers or Cantal and Blue D’Auvergne and a soft discs of cabicou collected from the most local farmers and put in the little cold cabinet next to the till. When its gone its gone. I will visit all and every of them with the delight and squeals of my father in law ringing in my ears – or his distaste and despair because a cheese has been plagiarised and pillaged – he was, you see truly passionnant. I try to follow and it becomes easy when I am allowed into a dairy such as that of Christine to watch the transformation of her cows (Salers) milk into St Nectaire. La Vache Qui Rit indeed … these babies are VERY content and very happy with the process.

49 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kate Nelson #

    A wonderful post and I am sure Pat would be delighted and squealing at your kind words. I am so happy to think of you in cheesy heaven. Sadly he would despair of cheese in South Africa, so I am impossibly jealous. Lots of love from another Cheesy Baby. Kate x

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    January 8, 2014
  2. Thank you Kate! When we come to visit (which we absolutely will) I’ll sneak some of the good stuff in my suitcase x

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    January 8, 2014
  3. Honey this has me drooling for more! Tell us more though than just the names, please describe the textures, flavours and smell of your beloved fromages for we the unknowing and unworthy.

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    January 8, 2014
  4. Hurrah! Carl you are far too kind to me but rest assured there will be much more …. and I will certainly try to make the taste and smell and feel of the cheese sing out of the page x

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    January 9, 2014
  5. Wow! I am glad I found your blog. I used to live at Pangbourne in the 1980s and was a regular customer at Patrick Rance’s shop in Streatley. He was very generous with the samples and always took a piece himself! I’ve got his Great British Cheese Book. I’ll have to get the French one. You couldn’t help but love cheese with him as a father-in-law.

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    January 27, 2014
    • That is extraordinary! I was brought up technically in Pangbourne though in reality about a mile and a half outside the centre …. Pat was a true legend – his eldest son and I took over the shop in 1986. Ain’t this kismet? I demand that we meet …. He would absolutely insist, believe me!

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      January 27, 2014
      • Life is full of surprises! I have fond memories of Pangbourne, where I had probably the smallest house, in Horseshoe Road. I left, sadly, in 1987. But I must have visited Wells Stores after you took over so we have probably already ‘met’. Chances of us getting up to Cantal in the winter are slim but we have been talking about a spring trip this year. And, of course, if you come down towards this direction, let me know. We can share some cheese to Patrick Rance’s memory. A bientôt.

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        January 27, 2014
  6. Raising a cheese or anything else delicious to Pat is always a pleasure. I will certainly let you know when we are likely to be heading in your direction (though like you Winter is a time for battening the hatches and staying put)

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    January 27, 2014
  7. I was introduced to Patrick’s English book over 20 years ago and have been buying cheese for our restaurant from Wells Stores in Abingdon ever since.

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    March 25, 2014
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece – I was so fortunate to have Pat as mon Beau Pere and no surprise that you buy the good stuff for Fallowfields as it, too, is a real gem!

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      March 25, 2014
  8. The selection of cheese you have in your neighbourhood sounds gorgeous. Thank you for introducing me to the fabulous Great British Cheese Book. Cheese is bliss! Even if I’m not more adventurous than Brie and Camembert!

    Liked by 1 person

    September 7, 2015
    • No shame in a good Brie or Camembert at all …. 🙂

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      September 8, 2015
  9. What do you get when you pair a French Cow with a cow that speaks French like a Spanish cow? (I have no idea. Just putting it out there.) I saw “Cheese”in your menu and couldn’t resist. I think I would really have liked your father-in-law although my cheese palate is quite mundane. It’s funny that you had a shop in the Berkshires and my children’s book, A Berkshire Tale, about ZuZu is set in the Berkshires (of Massachusetts, though). I’m off to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. Adieu.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
    • I noticed your book is set in the Berkshires – I shall definitely need to find a copy 🙂 I was raised in Berkshire (England) in fact!

      Liked by 1 person

      October 10, 2015
      • Yes, I read that on your blog.There is a book with a similar title to mine, set in England. A lovely place to grow up.

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        October 10, 2015
  10. One of my future joys will be to try my hand at cheese making. My future plans involve being as independent as possible, but I can’t imagine daily life without cheese! Or peanut butter for that matter!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 21, 2015
    • LIfe without cheese is an empty existence. It was one of my most joyous moments when I finally found peanut butter in France and I, to want to make the stuff. In fact I make a fresh goat cheese now – it’s really really easy …. I might post it on the blog 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 21, 2015
  11. Look at that adorable face and fluffy ears! I can’t seem to tolerate much cheese but do eat goat’s cheese or fromage de chevre, as you might say. “)

    Liked by 1 person

    December 28, 2015
    • Cheese can be a big problem but generally goats and sheeps are more digestible (and actually better for you!) …. the cow is a doll though, I agree!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 28, 2015
  12. I truly envy you with that great possibility of buying all of those great cheeses, especially the blue-veined ones! I am passionate about cheese and find it really hard to purchase especial kind of cheeses in Malaga at a reasonable price. It goies without saying that if I wish to try an authentic one I’d rather order from France direct, though I know that there are several companies in Madrid and Barcelona that deal with this issue. Yet, I still prefer to ramble about the cheese stalls in local markets as when I was a long time ago in the Alps. Those were the times!!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 3, 2016
    • I adore cheese as you gather. At the moment I am in the USA for most of this year … the farmhouse cheeses are variable but some are really very good but the price!!!! After France where I am used to buying big chunks for a few Euros it’s a shocker. I do like it here but France is my home and I miss it dreadfully. As a point of interest, when we had the shop in England we were the first outlet to stock Spanish Cheese (Manchego of course and a sahún and a cabrales from memory). I remain a fan. But French cheese is in a different league. Whereabouts in the Alps were you?

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      February 3, 2016
      • Chamonix area, during a fortnight holidays.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 6, 2016
      • It’s very lovely there 🙂 I will be living in Grenoble later this year for 6 months …. A great opportunity to explore more of the Alpes. But my heart belongs to the Auvergne …. You should visit – the cheeses are fantastic 🙂 Feel free to email me by the way

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        February 6, 2016
  13. This post was so much fun to read. How interesting about your father in law, and that you eventually took over his shop! That must have been a wonderful experience. I imagined what it would be like to have a cheese shop. Although I can’t read the phrase “cheese shop” and not have the Monty Python sketch running in my head in the background now. I love cheese, and I have to credit that sketch actually, because before seeing that as a teenager I had no idea that those were all real cheeses and that there were so many different kinds!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 18, 2016
    • I always thought some Kurdish dancers in full City business attire would have helped but sadly I was a loan voice ….. so glad you enjoyed it. And I do think the Pythons educated the masses to the vast array of cheese available 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 18, 2016
      • Hahaha yes, the dancing! How great would that have been. So recently I started getting into epoisses, delice and that style of “stinky cheese” as my kids so fondly call it. My husband will complain about the smell as he’s eating it, but at least he enjoys sharing it with me. Those are delicious but so different from what we normally would eat. I’m amazed at the seemingly endless variety when it comes to cheese. How are there so many different kinds?!

        Liked by 1 person

        February 19, 2016
      • It is quite remarkable that what began as a mistake when a shepherd boy put milk in his water bottle has developed so thoroughly. One of the amazingly nice things about spending this year in the US is finding the variety of cheeses that are being made here 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        February 19, 2016
      • That’s cool that you are enjoying some new things while you’re in the US. Have a great weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

        February 19, 2016
  14. Cheese heaven – I love St. Nectaire, Salers, CAntal, ….all of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 9, 2016
    • Hi Sabine …. Thank you for taking time to drop by and share the cheese love! Le Cantal is truly a cheese heaven 🙂

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      June 9, 2016
      • Bonjour Osyth, thank you for the follow. Looking forward to you bites of paradise!

        Liked by 1 person

        June 9, 2016
  15. You are truly a blessed lady! Such pedigree… such knowledge… so lucky to sit at the table of the man himself… and then to take all that knowledge and expand it in the heaven of cheese… paradise indeed! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    September 8, 2016
  16. I love cheese. Particularly French cheese. Few things make me happier. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    November 23, 2016
    • I’m a smitten fromage kitten, that’s for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

      November 23, 2016
      • Ha! I love your turn of phrase.
        Of course, my love of cheese extends to pretty much all cheese. A Spanish friend once bought me an entire wheel of Manchego from his favourite deli in Barcelona. It was the best gift ever. I’m a simple creature.

        Liked by 1 person

        November 23, 2016
  17. Just found this blog as I sip a rose and nibble on an ash Brie (plus mangoes I have just dried). What a great blog, I can’t what to work my way through your other posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 6, 2016
    • Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment ….. I hope your brie was luscious and I am certain your dried mangoes must be a fabulous treat!

      Like

      December 6, 2016
  18. I am listening to the BBC radio feature on your father-in-law. He is a former military man! Mine is too 🙂 Well, I tremendously enjoyed reading your cheese-y post. I shall queue up to buy up cheese if I am in France, when you have the sheep under your roof 😉 I am a cheese mouse too xx

    Liked by 1 person

    April 4, 2017
    • He was a tremendous and natural eccentric and he did change cheese-eating in Britain for the good so that little mice like you can enjoy real cheese whenever you squeak! Military men have a lot going for them IMHO 😊xx

      Liked by 1 person

      April 4, 2017
      • What is IMHO? I am terrible with acronyms. I heard the feature and it was fantastic. Radio features make you think and smile when you hear voices from another age, the nuances in them, as the subjects explain their passion for a certain something. A cheese pioneer is an individual to cherish. Was it easy to have a cheese shop? I mean so many different kinds of cheese at your disposal. Would you not raid your own shop? The mind boggles at the opportunity.

        Liked by 1 person

        April 4, 2017
      • ‘In my humble opinion’. Stay naive about acronyms they are horrible and I should be forced to stand in the corner on a stool watching people eat cheese for my sins! I was a holy terror with the shop … the house was part of the premises one wing was the shop and there was a connecting door. I used to skulk out in the evening saying ‘I just need to check the cheeses’ and then scoff. I never tired of it. I’m a natural glutton and any pretend self-control I might have had exited stage right when I entered the cheese business. I am SO glad you have enjoyed that feature. I was immensely proud when they did it. He should have had a knighthood for what he achieved .. far more than some of the bozos that have them. He’d have loved you. He loved women with spirit and a sense of humour. Mostly he loved his wife of course who I will also write about one day. She was absolutely inspirational.

        Liked by 1 person

        April 4, 2017
      • You lucky you. I would have sat in a corner and become a round wheel of cheese myself. The stinkier the better. Once I took my cousins a pat of fresh cheese (needless to say it was soft) from Covent Garden. By the time I reached their house in Essex, you can imagine my fragrant bag. I stepped in and my sister-in-law started sniffing and wondered aloud, “What is that smell? It is odd.” I said, “Is there one?” After I had grabbed myself a glass of wine and cooed over her tot, I remembered the cheese. And voila, we figured out the culprit. I would have demolished that cheese even if it was stinky but they unfortunately did not share my enthusiasm.

        Thank you for the kind words about your father-in-law. I would have loved to gain some cheese knowhow and stories from his days in the military. Bozos. I love that 😀 I will wait to read about your mother-in-law xx

        Liked by 1 person

        April 4, 2017
      • Ooh la la … les gens d’essex besoin d’un peu d’education. I am joking. My aunt and uncle lived there and my bestie was an Essex gal. And my eldest daughter’s bestie – how strange! But the cheese, the cheese smell is not a smell it is an aroma. It is a beautiful aroma. Sadly not all share the wisdom 😉 I love this story … did you buy at Neals Yard Dairy – they are still maestros! xx PS: My ma-in-law will appear in due time. It’s promise!

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        April 4, 2017
      • Ahahaha, I shall not fight any French. It always sounds sexy no matter what is the message 😉 These are my cousins of Indian origin but they are more British than the British 😛 I love them but they can be overwhelming. It was at the weekly Covent Garden fresh market. I have forgotten the name of the stall but it was years ago. The first time I came to the UK on a vacation that is. I will look out for Neals next time I am there and holding you to that promise xx

        Liked by 1 person

        April 4, 2017
  19. Thank you so much for this … I’m delighted and humbled to find you have linked my little morceau de fromage to your own wonderful blog ☺️

    Like

    September 16, 2016

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