By Catherine Rush Thompson
By some estimates, there are more than 1,800 different types of cheese in the world and as many as 1,000 varieties that are produced in France. It is thought that the Romans introduced the first cheese into France and the French monasteries experimented and developed some of the earliest French cheese varieties. Let us explore and celebrate some of the popular French cheeses now available in the United States!
THE HEALTH RISKS AND BENEFITS OF EATING FRENCH CHEESE
Over 96% of French people love to eat cheese; many do so on a daily basis. This love of cheese is deeply rooted in their culture. However, cheese is not for everyone. Some people are allergic to a protein in cheese called casein. An allergic reaction to this substance can cause inflammation throughout the body, rashes, acne, headaches, and sinus congestion. Also, lactose is a sugar that naturally occurs in cheese and can also trigger a reaction in people who are lactose intolerant. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Cheese is considered a healthy, calorie dense, whole food, if eaten in moderation. Surprisingly, French people have low rates of heart disease despite their affinity to cheese and other saturated fat-rich food. Researchers hypothesize that eating 2 ounces of cheese daily could lower the risk of heart disease by 18% and as little as ½ ounce of cheese could cut stroke risk by 13%. According to Healthline, cheese is an excellent source of calcium, fat, and protein and contains vitamins A and B-12, zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin. In addition to being nutritious, it can help protect your teeth from cavities, reduce your risk of diabetes, improve your good cholesterol, increase bone strength, boost muscle strength, and extend your lifespan. It was rumored that Molière regularly consumed cheese and port wine, believing that it was good for his health; however, he collapsed on stage in a tubercular coughing fit and died shortly after at the age of 51. Unfortunately for Moliere, cheese is not known to reduce the risk of tuberculosis.
THE BEST TIME TO EAT FRENCH CHEESE
The French view cheese as a rich food and eat it in moderation at the end of their meal to avoid spoiling their appetite and to aid in digestion. Perhaps this may explain the “French Paradox” concept formulated by epidemiologists in the 1980s. Researchers observed the low coronary heart disease death rates in French people despite high intake of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. More recent studies suggest that regular consumption of wine may be a primary contributor to a low mortality rate specifically from cardiovascular diseases. Perhaps eating French cheese with wine after dinner is a healthier option.
PAIRING WINE WITH FRENCH CHEESE
There is another good reason to pair wine and cheese. Researchers found that red wine and cheese, when consumed responsibly, both seemed to be protective against deteriorating memory and other thinking skills.
There are a few basic guidelines for matching a wide range of wines with any cheese. Generally, red wines go best with most cheeses and dry white wines go well with milder cheeses. Sweet white wines do not go well with cheese unless used as a sweet and sour combination. Overall, it is a matter of individual choice.
TYPES OF FRENCH CHEESES
The different tastes of French cheeses relate to the soil and climate of various French regions, as well as the flavor of milk from the cows, sheep (ewes), and goats used to produce iconic French cheeses. In addition to their location, French cheeses are distinguished by how they are produced, yielding distinctive textures and tastes:
WHERE TO SHOP FOR FRENCH CHEESES
Availability of all the various French cheeses may be limited, though several stores in Kansas City have a good selection from which to choose popular options, including:
The Better Cheddar - http://www.thebettercheddar.com/
French Market - https://frenchmarketkc.com/
Grocery stores with delis featuring specialty cheeses
French cheeses can also be purchased online from multiple vendors, including:
POPULAR CHEESES TO EXPLORE
The ranking of French cheeses varies, so the following is a compilation from multiple lists of favorite cheeses with their descriptions by experts. These cheeses are listed in order of their popularity; however, tastes in French cheeses vary. They are all worth a try.
#1 Brie de Meaux is a soft French cheese made from cow's milk that is known as the "cheese of royalty". "The flavor of brie is rich, buttery, fruity, and increasingly earthy with age. It has a runny, creamy texture and a strong earthy aroma." Nearly a dozen different cheeses boast Brie as part of their names, but Brie de Meaux, is by far the most famous.
#2 Camembert de Normandie, Normandy's most famous and iconic cheese, is made from raw cow's milk. "The flavor profiles of brie and camembert are quite similar. Both are typically described as tasting earthy, nutty, fruity, grassy, and even mushroomy. The variations in taste are subtle, but brie is milder with a creamy, buttery taste, while Camembert has a deeper, more earthy and intense flavor and aroma."
#3 Roquefort, a favorite of kings and popes, is one of the greatest cheeses of France. This cheese is made from full-fat, unpasteurized sheep's milk and has blue veins dispersed throughout its body. "Roquefort has a moist rind on the exterior, while on the inside it is crumbly in texture and creamy, tangy, intense, complex, sharp, and salty in terms of flavor, with a white paste marbled with blue mold."
#4 Reblochon is a semi-hard, pressed cheese, made from unpasteurized cow's milk. "Reblochon has a yellow to orange edible rind with an interior cheese has a lingering nutty and slightly fruity flavor."
#5 Comté is a big, hard cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk, with at least 45% fat and a pressed, cooked paste. "Each cheese wheel is unique with numerous taste varieties that can range from milky, spicy, roasted to fruity, buttery or plant-like due to the fact the milk it is made from must be used immediately. Regularly dubbed France's favorite cheese, Comté is a pressed cheese from Franche-Comté, near France's border with Switzerland. The Alpine region where it's produced is home to more than 100 small cooperatives known as fruitières that manufacture these massive wheels of cheese."
#6 Fromage blanc is a French fresh cheese made from cow's milk and its texture is soft, creamy, and spreadable. "The aromas are fresh, while the flavors are mild, smooth, and citrusy. Cream is often added to fromage blanc in order to enrich its flavors. It is recommended to serve fromage blanc as a dessert with fruit or jams, flavor it with herbs, use it as a pastry filling, or spread it on bread."
#7 Fromage frais is a "French fresh cheese made from whole or skimmed cow's, goat's, or sheep's milk which is sometimes enriched with the addition of cream. Its texture is smooth and creamy. In flavor, it is similar to cream cheese (milky, tangy, acidic, smooth), but fromage frais is much lower in fat. It is important not to confuse it with fromage blanc, which doesn't contain live cultures, while fromage frais does. The cheese is often used as an accompaniment to caviar, but it can also be enriched with fruit or honey. It pairs well with sparkling white wines and fortified wines."
#8 Chaumes is a "French soft or semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk. Its rind is washed, and its color is pale yellow. The cheese has a strong aroma, a supple, creamy, springy, and smooth texture, and a complex, nutty flavor. It can be grilled or consumed with French bread. There is also a spreadable version of this cheese, known as chaumes la crème."
#9 Beaufort is a hard cheese made from the raw milk of Tarentaise cattle. "Beaufort also has a very distinct aroma, sometime described as strong or mildly pungent. Beaufort is commonly used to make fondue because it melts easily."
#10 Fourme d'Ambert is "a tall, round, blue cheese that is unpressed and uncooked, with a high fat content (50%). It is made from pasteurized or raw cow's milk and it is one of the oldest cheeses in France. On the exterior it has a dry gray moldy rind, while on the interior it is creamy white with green or blue veins dispersed throughout the body. The flavor is delicate and mild with a velvety mouthfeel, with earthy, mushroomy, sweet, and creamy notes."
#11 Maroilles was invented by a monk at the Abbey of Maroilles in the 10th century. He was trying to invent a bacon-flavored cheese that he could enjoy on fasting days when meat was forbidden by the Catholic Church. "Maroilles has a powerful, pungent aroma suggestive of fermenting fruit, walnuts, mushrooms, and smoky bacon."
#12 Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine is a Loire Valley goat cheese produced near the city of Tours. It can be easily recognized by its long form and small log-like shape. "The cheese has a walnut aroma and a slightly salty but nutty taste."
#13 Epoisses is a "soft cheese boasting a funky and pungent aroma, produced near Dijou, France. Like other washed-rind cheeses, Époisses smells stronger than it tastes; its flavors are garlicky, fruity, and mushroomy."
#14 Brocciu is a fresh, lactose-free cottage cheese with a very distinctive sweet flavor. "One of the best-known cheeses from Napoleon's home island of Corsica, brocciu is a soft, creamy, sheep's-milk cheese. The cheese is mild enough to be enjoyed in either savory or sweet preparations; a brocciu cheesecake is a true delight."
#15 Mimolette is "a bright-orange cheese from Northern France. Aged Mimolette is often described as a sharp but mild cheese that is intensely fruity and nutty, with subtle notes of caramel. Except that it's vibrant orange, Mimolette is similar to parmesan—and can be used similarly."
#16 Cantal is "a hard cheese with a flavor reminiscent of cheddar cheese and a strong, tangy butter taste that grows with age. A well-ripened Cantal has a vigorous nutty and tangy taste, while a young cheese has a hint of sweet and buttery taste of raw milk."
#17 Bleu d'Auvergne "has a strong and pungent taste, but to a lesser extent than other blue cheeses; it is less salted, with a creamier and more buttery taste and a moister texture."
#18 Pont l'Evèque "has a slightly sour flavor that is similar to Camembert but is a bit milder. Pont l'Évêque may well be the oldest Normandy cheese still being made today."
#19 Boursin is "a soft cheese flavored with garlic and herbs, somewhat similar to cream cheese. The first Boursin flavor, Garlic and Fine Herbs, was created in 1957 by François Boursin, a cheese maker from Normandy."
#20 La Tartuffe is "a custom-made cheese layered with truffles that you will only find at the Laurent Dubois fromageries in France. The name is a nod to Molière, incorporating a play on words, as the French word for truffles is "truffes" (TROOF)."
As you explore French cheeses, consider taking notes about those you like the best along with your favorite wine pairings. If you have others you would like to add to this list, please comment below!
A Guide to French Cheese. https://about-france.com/cheese.htm
All You Need to Know About the Magnificent Parmesan Cheese. https://delishably.com/dairy/Magnificent-Parmesan-Cheese
Eating Well: 5 Reasons Cheese Is Actually Good for Your Health. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/289455/5-reasons-cheese-is-actually-good-for-your-health/
Healthline: Is Cheese Bad for You? https://www.healthline.com/health/is-cheese-bad-for-you#takeaway
How Many French Cheeses Are There? https://www.lefoodist.com/guides/cooking-classes-paris/cookingparis62.html
How To Guide: French Cheese: Love It Or Hate It, But Never Forget It! https://howtoguide.org/french-cheese-love-hate-never-forget/
Study finds wine and cheese may help keep your mind sharp.https://www.today.com/health/wine-cheese-may-help-prevent-cognitive-decline-today-t204312
The Foodie - http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2008/01/living-on-parmesan.html
The French Paradox and Wine Drinking. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9949795/
Types of French Cheese. https://about-france.com/cheese.htm
Types of Cheese from France: http://www.eattheglobe.com/story/types-of-cheese-from-france-478
WebMD. Cheddar cheese: Are there health benefits? https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-cheddar-cheese#2
By Catherine Rush Thompson
A picture is worth a thousand words and a beautiful painting is priceless. Ann Trusty and John Hulsey are local artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. They are both native Kansas Citians who create their masterpieces in their local art studio in Lawrence, Kansas, as well as during their travels around the world. These two artists capably capture the beauty around the world, including many French landscapes and cities.
John Hulsey is the recipient of numerous awards and his paintings are included in many corporate and private collections: The Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C.; The Hudson River Reference Collection, Garrison, New York; The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The United States Embassies in Australia and Jordan; and The Albrecht- Kemper Museum of Fine Art, St. Joseph, Missouri, to name a few. To see more of his fine art, visit: www.johnhulsey.com.
John is known for producing new work for exhibition and teaching national and international workshops. Constance Berdan Sherman, artist and faculty member of the State University of New York, describes John’s work: "After many years of living the landscape, so to speak, John has developed consummate skill in presenting its aspects on paper or canvas, and his generosity in imparting these skills in workshops and articles is widely known. Far beyond this, the scope of his gift to us in these works is difficult to describe. He seems to be not so much painting a picture for us as giving us the landscape in an almost literal sense. We are at the point of observation, not excluded by a frame nor witnesses to an event. We participate in the landscape, witnessing what we may always have known but rarely call to conscious thought. We know how those small waves break on the shore, how the sand shines and reflects for an instant, how the luster departs as the water sinks in. We have seen those patches of sunlight and shadow moving over the hills, and he reminds us that we know them. We know how those small rivers glow as they wind out in the sunset, although we may have forgotten in the traffic of living. John's paintings represent, re-present, give us back our presence in the landscape and our feeling of existing in it under the sky. This is a grand gift in all senses. We need to be reminded occasionally how the light embraces, and then moves on. There is some sort of magic in capturing the instant with this degree of perception." John has produced commissioned paintings for many of the major publishers including Random House, Readers Digest, and Time Magazine, which featured his watercolor portrait of Margaret Thatcher on the cover.
His wife, Ann Trusty, is equally gifted. Ann studied fine art at Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts; the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of Kansas. In 1980 she moved to Garrison, New York and a studio in the former train station overlooking the Hudson River where she continued to develop and show her work for ten years.
She has exhibited her work in one and two-person exhibitions at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Fine Art, St. Joseph, Missouri; the Louise Jones Brown Gallery at Duke University; the Westchester Gallery at the State University of New York, White Plains; the Hemisphere Club, Rockefeller Center, New York; and the Alice and Hamilton Fish Library Gallery, Garrison, New York.
In addition, her work has been included in juried and group exhibitions at the Museum of San Diego History; the Islamic Arts Museum, Istanbul, Turkey; the Turkish American Society, Ankara, Turkey; the Union des Maisons des Metiers d'Art Francais, Paris, France; the Musee de l'Impression sur Etoffes, Mulhouse, France; the Musee-Chateau d'Annecy, Annecy, France; the Musee des Beaux Arts, Angers, France; the Galerie des Tanneurs, Tours, France; and the Gayle Willson Gallery, Southampton, New York.
Ms. Trusty's work has received the Merit Award from the American Craft Awards, New York, New York and has been featured in Decorative Design (Gakken Art Books, Tokyo, Japan). Ann’s work has been included in juried and group exhibitions around the world. A description of her work is captured by Patricia Malarcher, a textile artist and writer named honorary fellow in 2020 for her scholarship, research, and advocacy as a contributor of articles on craft to the New York Times and the editor of Surface Design Journal: “The distinctive character of Ms. Trusty's work lies in her fresh, energetic compositions . . . she creates abstract color fields enlivened by scraps of cloth that dance, fly and dynamically explode across the surfaces."
Both Ann and John have traveled the world, exhibiting their work and offering workshops. Their remarkable experiences and lessons are shared on their subscription educational website: The Artist’s Road (www.theartistsroad.net). A subscription may be required to read all articles on this site; however, some information is free. Topics that can be explored at their extensive site include: Oil Painting, Watercolor Painting, Pastel Painting, Step-by-Step Demonstrations, How-Tos, Demonstration Videos, Art History, Impressionism, The Perspectives Archive, Places (inspiring locations to paint), The Art of Beauty, Nocturnes, Voices of Experience, and Live On-Line Painting Workshops in Oil and Watercolor.
Francophiles can appreciate The Artist’s Road blogs about famous artists including Van Gogh and Cezanne, along with step-by-step painting demonstrations of treasured landscapes in Provence.
Featured stories include:
• In the Footsteps of Van Gogh – Part I and II
• In the Footsteps of Cezanne, Painting in Provence
• Step-by-Step watercolor plein air painting demonstration, Le Pont d'Avignon, by John Hulsey
• Through the Trees, Lourmarin,"Learn to Develop a Point of View"
• An Artist’s Tour of Provence – Parts I, II, III, and IV
• Ochre - The Color of Provence
• Poppy Fields near Ventabren
• Casein - An Overlooked Medium
• French Language Tips for Artists
You may also view their remarkable works of art at their website:
Do you feel inspired to explore your artistic abilities? This summer John and Ann are offering online workshops for those interested in capturing beauty:
www.the artists road.net
By Rebecca Smith
There is no shortage of beautiful chateaus dotting the French countryside. But one is known distinctly as the “Château des Dames”, the “Ladies’ Château”. It is the Château de Chenonceau located in the Loire Valley and is so called because it has been designed and owned predominantly by women, a remarkable feat, especially considering the times. The transitions have not always been smooth or managed with female solidarity, but women can herald it a glowing success story nonetheless.
An exquisite model of French Renaissance architecture, Chenonceau elegantly spans the River Cher and includes a moat-enclosed courtyard. Early in the 1500s it was but a dilapidated manor house and mill. Thomas Bohier bought it from the Lord of Marques and tore it down, leaving only the well and tower. Bohier’s wife, Catherine Briçonnet, then designed and commissioned the new structure. Of special note are the grande entrance and France’s first straight staircase.
Sold in 1535 by their wayward son to King François I, it was turned over to Diane of Poitiers, the young mistress of his son, Henri II. Diane expanded the estate adding formal gardens, a bridge across the river and a farm and vineyard, all of which turned a tidy profit.
When the king was killed in a tournament in 1559, Catherine de Medici, his widow, in, it is thought, a fit of spite, sent Diane packing and took control. She then revamped the landscaping and added new structures. Those included an elegant 60-meter long, 2-story gallery atop the bridge. It was at that time that Chenonceau became the site of numerous balls and galas and fireworks and became famous for its revelry and pomp.
That changed completely when the subsequent owner, Louise de Lorraine, took possession of it after the assassination of her husband, Henri III. She instilled an atmosphere of grief and sadness. She herself wore mourning white and had the ceilings painted white, as well. Indeed, she was known as the Reine Blanche.
Upon her death, the castle was bequeathed to her niece and, after that, was acquired by Farmer General Dupin, whose wife became its next ruler. Madame Dupin added a new intellectual touch. She initiated a salon of many of the most renowned minds of the time. She also was widely known and beloved for her charity work, which may have saved Chenonceau from being destroyed during the French Revolution.
In 1864 the chateau was bought by Madame Pelouze, who spared little expense in renovating and embellishing the property, rearranging statues and replenishing interior art and decorations.
Today thousands of visitors enjoy Chenonceau; it is one of the most photographed of all the chateaus. Attracting the photographers are a splendid 16th century fireplace and mantel, superb Flemish tapestries, stained glass windows in the chapel (replaced after being destroyed in WWII), glass cabinets with the signatures of past inhabitants, a library and Bureau Vert, paintings by Rubens and Mignard, and the glorious history-making straight staircase leading up to the Five Queens’ Bedroom. The gallery atop the bridge, which served as a hospital during WWII and as the symbolic boundary between Free and Occupied France, is certainly a highlight. As is the Wax Museum, which relates the long, intriguing history of the estate.
The Miller family are the current owners but undoubtedly the entire country, and women, in particular, feel a proud ownership of La Merveille du Val-de-Loire, the Wonder of the Loire Valley.
Chenonceau with historical guided tour - 3D: sketchfab.com/3d-models/chenonceau-with-historical-guided-tour-bab90b3131d74b699a428d0804d6e9c6
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