Raclette to Roquefort: A Cheese Lover's Tale
Words by Claire Burkitt
I never keep this a secret, so this won’t surprise anyone, but I love cheese. From the soft, creamy goats and bries to the crumbly, blue gorgonzolas and roqueforts, I’m in love with it all. Each cheese has a purpose in my culinary repertoire. Of course, I will not deign to call the ultra-processed American cheeses or cheese-in-a-can actual cheese (much to the chagrin of my mother, who works for one of the nation’s largest dairy companies). When I say I love cheese, I am talking about artisanal cheese, the glorious spreads that have overtaken grocery stores all across my city. I can now find cheese mongers at a Fred Meyer. What bliss.
I was first introduced to cheese—real cheese, cheese cheese—in France. Quelle surprise! I always think of this in terms of Meg Ryan in the film French Kiss. After eating some cheese she yells, “Lactose intolerance” on a train traveling through wine country, as her gut fails to process the dairy sugars. Fortunately, my body has a high tolerance to lactose.
As many French people pointed out to me, France produces more cheeses than are days in a year. I didn’t even get close to trying them all. However, I can tell you, there is nothing quite like an aged cheese that has been sitting in your refrigerator for a week; there is nothing quite like visiting the only caves in the world where they can make Roquefort; there is nothing quite like fresh honey on goat cheese (you absolutely must try it) after a dinner of rabbit and vegetables from a country garden.
France isn’t the only place with great cheese, though. In fact, some of their favorites come from Switzerland and England. Recently, on a trip to the UK, I was stunned to see large chunks of stilton in grocery stores for just £2 ($3 US).
Below, I’ve included a list of my favorite cheeses and where they are from. Where are your favorite cheeses from?
This is a strong blue cheese from the south of France. The specific mold used to age the cheese is only found in the caves where Roquefort is produced, giving it a unique color and flavor.
This cheese melts easily and is used in a classic Swiss/French dish from the alps called—you guessed it—raclette. The cheese is melted on a special grill and served over boiled potatoes and charcuterie meats.
This is by no means traditional, English, white cheddar, but when it comes to American cheddars, nothing compares to Tillamook. It is my preferred cheese for tacos, cheeseburgers, cheesy mashed potatoes, grilled cheese sandwhiches—you get the idea.
This is basically brie and is usually labelled as D’Affinois Brie in the United States. I had often poo-pooed the brie lovers I came across as people who didn’t really get cheese. Then I had D’Affinois. I was wrong; I am sorry. Nothing beats this brie. It’s the creamiest.
This is real parmesan. It is made in Italy, and your pasta dishes will thank you for using it. I use the leftover rind in my soups for added depth of flavor.