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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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The Romance of Roquefort

In response to our recent article on cheese etiquette, many readers have wondered how mold from rye bread found its way into the first Roquefort cheese. Let’s say the French are great lovers who love their cheese. As one might suspect, love and Roquefort, therein lies a tale of great romance.

Love and Roquefort

By Nancy McGee, Contributor to Barefoot Blogger
Absolutely Southern France

Napoleon and Josephine, de Beauvoir and Sartre, Rimbaud and Verlaine, and Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette…are just a few of France’s famous lovers, real or legendary. But way back, a largely unknown young couple was responsible for one of the country’s most enduring traditions. Their story is decidedly among the most romantic of all.

Ingredients for a Great French Culinary Tradition
All You Need is Love...

Once upon a time – almost two thousand years ago, as legend has it – a young shepherd took shelter from a raging storm in a cave on Mount Combalou near Roquefort. No sooner had he begun his lunch of ewe’s milk curds on rye bread when a beautiful young shepherdess appeared, rain-soaked, at the mouth of the cave. The chivalrous young man offered to share his lunch, but as they became better and better acquainted, so to speak, lunch was soon forgotten.

Love and Roquefort

When the storm abated, each went their own way – with empty stomachs but hearts full.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night…

...a king was born – that is to say, the ‘King of Cheese’ as French philosopher Diderot declared “Roquefort.

A month or so after the young lovers first rendezvous, the shepherd was tending his flock near the same cavern. Fond memories of that romantic interlude surfaced, as did the memory of the abandoned lunch. Much to his surprise, it was still there when he entered the cave, but hardly recognisable! Mold blanketed the rye bread and infiltrated the curds to produce deep blue/green veins.

Love and RoquefortThe shepherd, whose hunger knows no bounds, took a bite of the moldy cheese. One can only imagine his reaction – ‘C’est formidable’!

Yes, there’s more. This tale has a happy ending. The shepherdess returned and shared her lover’s passion for the newborn cheese. Together, they quickly mastered the art of producing blue-veined cheese in the damp caves of Mount Combalou. An industry was born – along with several heirs who passed on the Roquefort tradition throughout the generations.

Love and Roquefort

As a postscript, the couple probably lived happily ever after for quite a long time. Recent studies have revealed the anti-inflammatory properties of mouldy, blue-veined cheeses – which could explain why French mortality rates from cardiovascular-related diseases are among the lowest.

Long live the King of French Cheeses!

Love and Roquefort

A Few Facts about Roquefort Cheese
Roquefort cheese is made from the perfumed raw milk from the Lacaunes ewe. Lacaunes sheep produce far less milk than cows, making the cheese rare and precious.

Today, the mold from rye bread is injected into the sheep’s milk.

Mount Combalou provided a rock-like fortress – hence the name ‘Roc Fort’. In fact, it was the only environment capable of creating the blue/green veins; other caves nearby did not have the same effect.

Combalou collapsed a million years ago, leaving narrow cracks as long as half a mile beneath the surface. Cool air blows through them into the caves, providing perfect climatic conditions — 48 degrees year-round — for cheese maturation.

Roquefort was Charlemagne’s favorite cheese and, according to Casanova, an aphrodisiac.

France produces over half of the world’s cheese, and it exports more than any other country, including the much sought-after Roquefort. Let’s see what President Charles de Gaulle had to say:

Only peril can bring the French together.
One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country
that has 265 different kinds of cheese.

Today, France is the home to over 1000 types of cheese. It’s a wonder how a modern President can hold things together?

Love and Roquefort



Love and Roquefort
Nancy McGee, Absolutely Southern France



Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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