In France, cheese is so much more than just something to be eaten. In episode six I look at the importance of cheese in French culture, as a reflection of regional tradition, history of a people and the seasons.
In this episode I am invited into the aging cellars of the Maître Fromager (Cheese Master), Dominique Sellier of the Fromagerie Escudier. He explains how cheese is aged, and talks about the role of cheese in French culture as well as how it’s eaten. In the second part of the show I talk to Jennifer of Chez Loulou, an American woman who has undertaken the enormous challenge to taste as many different French cheeses as she possibly can. In the third part, you’ll hear a story of cheese appreciation, and how persistence can pay off.
Part 1: Aladdin’s cave
In part one of this episode I found myself in the cheese aging cellar of Fromagerie Escudier, owned by Dominique Sellier, a third-generation cheese lover and Maître Fromager (Cheese Master). I was surrounded on all sides by shelf upon shelf of different cheeses, and we conducted the interview right there in the cheese cellar.
We discussed his role as a Cheese Master, where his passion for cheese comes from, where and how he finds the different and unique cheeses he sells in his shop, the importance of terroir for cheese, what is involved in the process of aging cheese, the specialities that he offers in his shop and the best regions for cheese production as well as butter. We also talk about why cheese is eaten at the end of the meal, choosing the right wine to go with your cheese, the rules for constructing a cheese platter, how to cut and store cheese and what his favourite cheeses are.
For the French-speakers who are interested, you can hear the full interview at the very end of this episode, after the credits.
Where to find him: Fromagerie Escudier - 44 Rue Escudier, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt (métro line 10, Boulogne – Jean-Jaurès) – Tel. 01 46 05 14 85
Favourite cheeses: goat’s milk cheese (in summer), Mont d’Or (at Christmas) and a 3-year old Comté
Part 2: 200 down, 800 to go…
In this second part of the show, I talk to Jennifer of the blog Chez Loulou, who is working on the very difficult endeavour of tasting every cheese in France. For each cheese she tastes, she takes detailed tasting notes and photos, as well as comparative comments and wine pairing suggestions, then posts all this information on her blog.
We discuss where her passion for cheese came from and where she came up with the idea to do such a project. She tells me about some of the most interesting and unusual (and unpleasant) cheeses she has ever tasted, and talks about some of the difficulties of working on such an endeavour and how she goes about sourcing different cheeses. We talk about the goods and evils of supermarket cheeses, how to find good cheese to taste when you’re travelling through France, and finish off with a discussion about the importance of wine.
Part 3: Persistence pays off
In the final part of the show I share my own tale of learning how to appreciate and understand cheese. You can read the full transcript here.
These are the books I used to help me understand the process of how cheese is made (and any errors in the description of this process are my own).
- Mastering Cheese, lessons for Connaisseurship from a Maître Fromager by Max McCalman & David Gibbons
- French Cheeses (Eyewitness Companions, with foreword by Joël Robuchon)
- World Cheese Book, by Juliet Harbutt
Full picture gallery
Music featured in this episode
- Free ride blues by André Bisson
- I’m leavin’ by André Bisson
- Fallen Angel by Giles
- Song In My Head by Emma Wallace