Skip to comments.Cheese gives Parisians a taste of the country
Posted on 09/27/2002 5:31:20 PM PDT by dighton
Frances cheese producers set up camp this week in a long marquee in the Tuileries Gardens, wafting pungent aromas to the Place de la Concorde and east to the lines of tourists waiting to enter the Louvre.
About 20,000 people are expected to have visited the France of 1,000 Cheeses fair by the time it closes tomorrow.
Yesterday, hundreds of people queued in blustery weather to pay the £1.25 entry fee, for which they received a plate of five cheeses from the region of their choice, bread, a glass of wine and the chance to see Frances myriad cheeses explained and presented in all their splendour.
The fair offers everything from advice on eating cheese at a meal - offer one more cheese than you have guests, so six cheeses for five guests, and always base your cheese plate around a brie - to a history of French cheeses - apparently Charlemagne loved roquefort. School groups peered at the cheeses laid out under plastic bubbles, restaurateurs took careful notes and seasoned cheese amateurs twitched their noses.
I reckon there are many more than 1,000, said Jean Goyallon, 75, a retired carpenter from northern Paris. Everywhere I travel in France, I find cheeses unique to each place.
Jacques Vernier, the moustachioed owner of one of Pariss most celebrated cheese shops, said: In France we say a meal without cheese is like a kiss without a moustache. But really, cheese is part of our national heritage.
The French are very proud of their country and cheese is part of that.
The fair is just one of many such events which bring the French countryside into Paris.
Each February, the sprawling Salon dAgriculture, the countrys biggest agricultural fair, draws more than 100,000 visitors, including the entire political class, who turn out to be photographed patting beasts hindquarters in the hope of placating angry farmers and preventing them driving their tractors down the Champs Elysees in protest. M Goyallon, who attends as many of these fairs as he can, says that they are a return to our roots, to the origins of French society.
M Vernier, a Savoyard by birth, agrees: There are very few real, real Parisians. Maybe 80 per cent would say they came from the country. So these fairs give them a chance to get a flavour of the country here in the city.
It is true that few Parisians admit to being from the capital. It is more chic to be Breton - the Scots of France - or from the South-West or wherever your family has its ancestral home, whether chateau or cottage.
Next month, Paris wine-growers will harvest their grapes, grown on balconies, along rooftop trellises and guttering, and press them into the 2002 vintage. The wine is barely drinkable, but the process of making it offers a break from urban life and a fleeting return to the 90 per cent of France that remains rural.
The Paris growers even have their own brotherhood, similar to the great brotherhoods of Burgundy and Bordeaux winemakers, who stagger around the Bastille each October dressed in mock 17th century costumes.
Besides giving Parisians the occasional whiff of their rural roots, the strong presence of the country in the city also reminds the politicians of the France beyond the peripherique.
This is the France which makes reforming the Common Agricultural Policy such a nightmare.
It is also the part of France that gives the country its swagger. No matter what role France plays in a war on Iraq, whether or not the German Chancellor prefers Tony Blair to Jacques Chirac, France will always be effortlessly big, rich and fertile, the Texas of Europe [!], the land of 1,000 cheeses and rising.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.
I had always heard that the French were great lovers of cheese...... I had no idea their love of cheese was rising.......
Thank you for the ping
I don't drink so, from my point of view, virtually everything else about the place is appalling however. But some folks like the wine I'm told.
No comparison could infuriate the French more.
(But of course they would ditch it all for "Texas and a swimming pool"!)