Our tiny little commune is known as La Nourrice, meaning wet-nurse. It is a strange name and I have yet to delve into its history, but in essence a wet-nurse breast feeds another woman’s baby. It was common practice in days gone by, but I am not so sure today, well not in this neck of the woods anyway! Back in 1874 the French government regulated wet-nursing and the practise did continue into World War I. The wet-nurse would take charge until the child was weaned and on solids.
Affinage is a lovely expression for maturing cheese – conveying a sense of aging and refining the flavour. The milk for cheese is the fundamental foundation for the cheese, how it matures, gains its characteristic flavour and whether prized for is raw provenance or past into the realms of pasteurization. The latter we have to thank the Frenchman Louis Pasteur for. The cheesemaker nurses the cheese from infancy to adulthood, similar to the wet-nurse, tending, checking for defects, and parenting the character that emerges.
I like this quote from Reinventing The Wheel by Bronwen and Francis Percival of Neal Yard Dairy – “The challenge is to provide the child – or cheese, as the case may be – with just enough structure to nurture the development of a fully-fledged individual”.
Many of our recent blog posts have talked about change and maturing our futures into something more fulfilling, where our individual personalities will shine forth. I made the hard choice to take writing and illustration ahead of my passion for cheese. But I believe it doesn’t have to be so stark an abandonment. As today, I am waiting patiently for my chicken casserole to cook and I have polenta roasting in the oven. I have a little time on my hands and the cheese books are to hand.
The Madam La Fromage here is promoting our great French cheeses, with a tiny dig at the English ones. Why such a dig? Well I have to admit I did have a little tiff with a certain Patricia Michelson, of La Fromagerie in London. We wanted her to try a sample of our lovely pine syrup with her soft goats cheeses. In Europe this is a combination that is known, but instead of letting the public decide, she was rather rude and even though she sold pine honey in her store of cheese, we were given short shift. Given she started her business from her garden shed and relied on word of mouth, her dismissiveness seemed uncalled for. Tony put his angst onto paper and hence the banners. If she would sell potatoes with cheese, then our little hand-made syrup could have been given a chance?
In the end we moved on. When I returned to London last month I only had time to visit one cheese shop. Unlike La Fromagerie, Neal’s Yard were welcoming and the lovely Spanish Maria spent time letting me taste raw English cheeses, discuss the merits of both pasteurisation and raw milk, and discussing what I could write about on my blog. The English Farms are struggling to keep their English cheeses in production and it is a shame that the English market does not favour their own brood as strongly as the French do theirs. Although I am in France, I will be a little disloyal here and promote my English truckles when I can.
My first cheese post will be about English cheeses. They are waiting to be unwrapped and tasted. Only then can I properly commit my thoughts to paper – I owe them my time.