Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cheese, please

Add to Google Reader or HomepageIt was possibly the first time we went to stay at our apartment in Vaison la Romaine. I went to the local cheese shop. The proprietor of the cheese shop, a meilleur ouvrier de France recognized by President Chirac for her skill and knowledge, gets to wear a chef jacket with a red, white and blue ribbon collar that indicates her status. When I asked her for 200 grams of Roulé, she looked over the top of her fashionable glasses and said: “Ca c’est un fromage industriel. Je ne le vend pas ici.” (That is factory-made (processed) cheese. I do not sell it here.) Her response was so abrupt and (to me) so aggressive, I decided to buy my cheese from the market vendors.

Over the years, I have gotten to know our famous cheese shop owner and have overcome my reticence of visiting her shop. Josianne Déal provided the cheeses for the Valentine’s Day dinner at La Lyriste, our friend's restaurant. For that matter, if you eat in just about any of the restaurants in town, the cheese they offer is probably from her store called Lou Canesteou fromagerie.

I now visit the shop regularly because there are so many varieties of cheese from which to choose and I appreciate the guidance from her and her staff. The first problem to overcome is to decide among the options for one style of cheese. Did I want the Comté that was aged 12 months, 18 months or 24 months? Did I want the Roquefort that was creamy or the Roquefort that was spicier to the taste? And then, of course, several of the cheeses are sold with the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) which means that the product is certified as coming from the region named on the label.

Last winter, I stopped in the cheese shop and Josianne waited on me. I told her that there was a difference between her shop and the cheese store where I shopped in Lansing. I explained that in Lansing, the shop runs on a binary system: “Do you have Roquefort? Yes/No. Do you have Morbier? Yes/No. Press 1 for yes, 0 for no… Josianne smiled at me and said: “We have a few more options for you.”

On Saturday, I stopped at our cheese shop and asked for a half of a pound of Comté. (Hills Cheese is the most popular of all of the shops at the City Market. Hills has been a vendor at the City Market for more than 50 years. Their success is offering quality cheeses from across the world, not just France. When you go there on the weekend, expect to be third in line.) The young man that served me brought me the piece of Comté that he had cut and told me the price. I asked him if he knew how long it had been aged (12, 18, 24 mos). He replied that he did not know but he was sure that the Comté had come in a green wrapper which meant that it was high-quality Comté; better than the Comté that comes in the blue wrapper…

It seems strange that a city of the size of Lansing does not have the equivalent of the cheese shop in Vaison which is 5% of the size of Lansing. But one must consider the importance of cheese in France (DeGaulle once posed the question: ‘Who can rule a country that has more than 278 different kinds of cheese?’) It is a question of priorities. France has over 200 cheeses. We have more flavors of Cheetos here than are available in France. Which do you prefer?


  1. Josianne's shop is a must stop for any cheese lover. The smell wafting out from the store is heavenly. Bet you can't wait to get back there next month :-)

  2. We love her shop too. I never buy from the cheese sellers at the market. The selection, quality and service she provides is worth whatever extra price she charges if any. What I like best is that she will slice raclette which when I have to do it really reduces my enthusiasm for the dish.