KATHMANDU: WC Field’s famous saying is — “Milk’s leap to immortality is cheese”. There are 2,000 types of cheese in the world, but we will look at some of the most famous cheeses. Incidentally the French word ‘Fromage’ (which means cheese came from the slang Latin ‘Formaticus’) and has been in use since 12th century.
Let’s start with Camembert, which is a soft creamy French cheese first made in the late 18th century in northern France by Marie Harel, a farmer from Normandy thanks to a priest who came from Brie. Brie was a well-known cheese that came from the district around Brie in France. During the French revolution Marie Harel hid a priest on the run from Brie and he helped Marie to make Camembert. One day Napoleon III, who was in the town for the opening of a rail line, tasted the cheese and dubbed it “Camembert”.
Brie was the Emperor Charlemagne’s favourite cheese which has flavours of hazelnut, fruit and herbs and it is believed that the Lois XVI’s last dying wish was to have final taste of Brie. It is considered one of the most popular cheeses in France. At the Congress of Vienna the great connoisseur Talleyrand declared that Brie was the king of cheeses at a dinner.
So much for the French, the Greeks were so fond of goat’s cheese that they rewarded their children with bits of it and called their children ‘Little cheese’ as a term of endearment.
The Bible has a Hebrew shepherd boy called David being sent by his father to present 10 cheeses to the captain of the Philistine army. The Hebrews were skilled in producing an acid or curd-based cheese.
Britain had its own cheese called Cheshire cheese and William the Conqueror ate so much of it that from a slim warrior he developed a large belly.
General Charles de Gaulle was reported as saying “How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese”?
It is argued that Roquefort was one of the Charles de Gaulle’s favourite cheeses. Loved by the 15th century Charles VI of France who gave sole rights to the ageing of Roquefort cheese to the village of Roquefort-Sur-Soulzon, Roquefort is a green rather than a blue cheese and has a spicy taste.
Of the famous blue cheeses the oldest is Gorgonzola named after the village of Gorgonzola in the north east of Milan. This soft cheese was developed from the migration of cattle that rested in Gorgonzola tired from their journey. In Gruyeres, a small Swiss Alpine town, cheese was made in pots that were cooked over small piles of burning wood from the forest. When the cheese makers needed more wood they used their cheese as a mode of payment. Gruyere is not just the name of the small town but is also the Swiss word for forest.
Parmesan cheese was developed in Parma in north Italy and is essential for pizzas.
Besides Cheshire, Cheddar which comes in different flavours, in England the British have an excellent blue-veined Stilton cheese which took its name from the village of Stilton where in the early days (1722) it was only served at the Bell Inn, a coaching house in the village of Stilton. The village became the centre from which thousand of Stilton cheeses were sold.
Adding to the 2,000 are very own yak or more correctly Nak cheese from the Sherpa country are very unusual, Kanchan or cow cheese which is addictive, and a new brilliant French goat cheese being made in the hills around the Valley. And so Nepal joins the cheese countries of the world.