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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Roquefort - Cheese, Fromage - Kase....

Weltbekannt - lecker und vielfältig, überall einsetzbar aber auch "Spezielle" mann kann und sollte sogar es Geniessen mit weine etwas "süffig"...
Connu mondialement... délicieuse... on peut l'utiliser  dans la Cuisine comme sur le plateau des on devrait l'accompagner avec du vin "doux"....
World known, often surtaxed..delicious and usable both in the kitchen or on the cheeseboard...and - it should really be accompagnied by a sweet wine.....such as Sauternes..

This cheese, world renowned - is often surtaxed as a "luxury" - currently the case in the USA.
Its versatility makes it totally irreplaceable by those products euphamistically called "cheese" in certain parts of the world.
If you've never tried a simple omelette with Roquefort cheese folded into the centre, and slowly melting inside the omelette...... you've never lived....!
...Made from Ewes milk, the cheese takes its name from the high rocky plateau called "Larzac" in the  Auvergnac district of France.
It is made, under modern conditions, within the confines of certain caves of the Region which have proved themselves to be the ideal surrounding, both from  dryness/humidity and constant temperature, combined with other conditions that allow the cheese to develope fully, and obtain its (for the most part) natural spore or funghi.
 .."Société" is one of the most well known varieties, but there are others, slightly lower priced, which have all the savour and taste.
These caves are, in the main, hollowed out of chalk and limestone, and the "fable" of Roquefort goes back in time immemoriable, and there are many "fables", my personal favourite being that of the Shepherd who spent all his time herding his sheep on the plateau, in all weathers, with the occasional visit from his farmer's wife, bringing food and drink - mainly cheese, bread and wine.  Being French, of course, a touch of "amour" must enter onto the scene, and it did occasionally occur that the shepherd and the farmer's wife did not get around to eating and drinking, due to "other engagements".....!
On these occasions, the shepherd just stocked the proviants into a little hole in the rock, to protect it from the sun which is quite fierce during the summer months in the area.
As in all the sad "love stories" the day arrived when the Farmer understood that something was going on up on the plateau, and refused his wife permission to go and take supplies to the Shepherd....dastardly plan....but the Shepherd just started to "dig out" his older supplies from the many holes in the rock.
He found that the wine was fine - better even than before - but that the cheese had taken a strange looking aspect....Green veins covered it, and he hesitated before trying this new product!
In fact, hunger drove him finally to consume the stuff, and - lo' and behold - Roquefort cheese was truly born!...True (?) French story....but I suppose it probably could have been Italian as well....!
The point of the story is to show that it is these green veins that run through the true Roquefort cheese that give it the taste.
No - it is NOT you don't try to take the green bits out of it....and no - it isn't poisonous...!
In fact the green "funghi" is actually a strain of the spore "penicillin" - one time wonder drug, and still used extensively in Medecine.
I must stress that Roquefort chees is a "GREEN" veined cheese, and there are very few of them worldwide.
It has nothing to do with those "BLUE" veined cheeses which one finds everywhere - cheaper and less pungent in taste, such as "Blue Stilton" from Britain, ..and any of the many others from all around Europe, indeed the world, such as the famous Italian "Gorgonzola" .. or the "St Agur" blue veined, from France.  All these cheeses are available world wide, and they all merit their place in the Cuisine of taste, but....they are NOT comparable with Roquefort!
Even in the USA one finds a variety which doubtless has its place as well, and most certainly is cheaper...not being "luxury taxed".
Whether the taste approaches that of the European varieties I cannot say, but I doubt it.
I had the pleasure of spending almost three years on the Plateau de Larzac, at the time as a "liaison officer" between the French military authorities and the British.(La Cavalerie, Larzac)
I was honoured to be taken regularly to "St. Affrique" - the town closest to the village of Roquefort, and indeed some of my French friends worked in the caves of Roquefort.
On one occasion, I was asked if I thought I could replace the Guide for the tourists "tour" in English and German - the Guide being ill.
I had the immense pleasure of doing so, and I determined that the British Tourists are the meanest with tips, the Germans second to them, and the Americans much more generous, only defeated by the Japanese....!
Mind you - I wouldn't want to try to live from the tips....!
My reward for "springing in" (apart from the pleasure) was a set of photo slides showing the tour, a whole Roquefort cheese, and the thanks of the Director....the cheese was eaten, the slides have disappeared, and the Director...? 
Probably changed his profession to Shepherd - a logical decision when one sees those Farmer's wives....! Or maybe not.....!
  Either way, I was forced to leave the Area when a certain General, named "de Gaulle" decided that France should no longer be in the Military section of "NATO" - and we had to leave.
Of course I've been back many, many times, it is only around 50 miles from where I now live, and the Patronne of the "Larzac Hotel" always showed her photos from those days, and talk affectionately of "Her British Soldiers"...there are fewer and fewer of us alive as the years pass, and the Hotel has become "respectable" - no longer must you take your own bottle and get it filled up with rough red wine for 1 French Franc the liter, plus 0.50 centimes for the use of a glass....!
No - nowadays, you sit with all the other Tourists and pay your 20euros for the same thing....but the toilets are no longer findable by following your nose....!
As a final point, in the Village of Roquefort, there used to be a small Restaurant at the bottom of the hill. The only place in the village apart from a tiny "Café-Bar-Tabac" and this Restaurant was, amazingly - a "Hotel Ecole" - inside it's walls, students took practical lessons in cooking, serving and general Hotellery.
Amazingly good, if somewhat intimidating with the classicaly laid out French tables, with 4 or 5 different glasses and knives and forks of all descriptions, with waiters hovering to attack you on a 5 minute routine....!
But...the food was great, and dirt cheap...supported by the Industry in the Region, it served more than it's purpose.
Just a tip - and even then - I don't know if it still exists....
When you go - look for it, or ask about it, and if it exists - go in and tell them where you got the tip from....!
They may give you a discount, or they may throw you out.....!

iwmpop(mrlemarquis)            -                    Vauvert, France            -       Janvier 2011

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******* iwmpop (mr le marquis)- Vauvert, France - Janvier 2011