How to serve cheese in the land of cheese?

For a very long time in France, cheese was considered food for the masses, and therefore actually low-class. Until the French Revolution (1780), cheese was hardly mentioned in French menus. However, for a large part of the French population, cheese constituted the only source of protein in their diets. Nonetheless, certain dairy products, such as crème fraiche (sort of like our sour cream) and fresh soft cheeses (akin to our cream cheese or cottage cheese) were considered worthy of aristocratic palates.

When, finally, in the 19th century, cheese was welcome at the high-class table, it was served at the same times as entremets (dishes served between two courses). It was not until the following century that cheese would be considered a particular course, to be served after the main course, between the salad and the dessert. But although cheese was getting more attention, it still wasn’t necessarily considered classy. Cheese was long ignored in upper-class meals, even in the fairly recent past. For example, In Charles De Gaulle’s day, presidential menus often did not even mention cheeses, even though they were served.
Today, cheese has achieved new status. It’s now classy to offer guests fresh soft or refined cheeses. Cheese platters are now carefully studied, even codified to satisfy the most demanding palate. Some hosts may serve just one cheese, instead of a selection of cheeses, but in this case, the one cheese must be sublime; it must be an “ultimate” cheese, a cheese to remember! Some bring old practices back to life, offering jams, pâtes de fruits (jellied fruit patties) , or candied fruits to go with the cheese.


© Text : Antoine Soulié « 250 réponses aux questions sur les arts et plaisirs de la table ». Picture homepage Internet.

Isabelle - Spotlight

Bonjour, my name is Isabelle. At my parent’s, a week didn’t go by without a social gathering. It may have been a garden-party, a bridge party or a diner dance. No caterers, of course, everything was homemade! With my sisters, we learned how to put different spreads on toast, the right way of course, arrange the flowers for the tables or decorate the buffet, to say the right thing to each guest or organize an elegant picnic. As appropriate, I learned etiquette during these receptions and also had “savoir-vivre” lessons. Today, I work in public relations in Paris and the education that I received is of great use. I’ll give you several very Parisian tips…

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