Sins of Visiting France: Too Much Goat Cheese. What was I thinking?
It’s probably no big secret that French goat cheese, specifically the Loire Valley‘s famous Crottin de Chavignol, is different than the goat cheese here at home.
Those delicate little rounds of loveliness with their subtle yet somewhat nutty flavor, seem to be available at every turn in France. Spread the tangy stuff on a baguette, or served warm in a salad, then consumed with a glass of Sancerre wine (yes, I’m a Sancerrean wine snob today, in yet another futile effort to hold onto any vestiges of Frenchiness that remain after returning home from French immersion lessons two weeks ago) is a quintessential French experience.
Methodically hand made by farmers using loved goats and regulated processes that have been passed down from generation to generation, most goat cheeses don’t travel well, either in your suitcase or by formal exportation. As is the case with Crottin de Chavignol, sadly its two to the three-week production process, from milking the goat to being sold to the consumer, definitely makes exporting practically impossible.
So what’s your average goat cheese loving Travel Belle to do?
Answer: Consume as much of it while she is in France as she can.
Follow up answer: This time, since I was staying near high heaven of goat cheese production, Chavignol, I may have taken this theory to an undesirable extreme. I confess I was so tired of goat cheese several days ahead of my return home, that I thought I couldn’t eat another bite. Maybe it was because I was sick with a cold. Or maybe I had just plain eaten too much.
Whatever it was, I was far from ready to ignore goat cheese completely. I could still look at goat cheese. I could still smell goat cheese (well, kind of, with the cold)…
… And I could still go visit the goats.
… And learn a little history:
The process of making goat cheese was probably brought to France in the 8th century by the Saracens, inhabitants of the desert around Syria. The goat cheese was first formed into “crottins,” or those adorable little discs we know today, in the 16th century. There are over 100 varieties of goat cheese in France, the majority of which are produced along the fertile banks of the Loire Valley.
Since 1976 Crottin de Chavignol has been regulated by the French A.O.C. (Appellation d’origine contrôlée– or as I prefer to think of it: amazing, optimized cheese.) A.O.C. labeling on French products indicates they were produced using a high level and traditional standards that were put in place in order to preserve quality and production methods.
These days the goats are milked by machine. My French teacher, Marianne from Couer de France Language School, told us that we were each required to have a turn at milking a goat. I pretended I didn’t understand her and left the building “coughing.”
So was I so tired of eating goat cheese by this point that I really resisted eating a little more?
Not a chance. Although now, two weeks later, I’m completely over my goat cheese saturation issues and regret not eating a lot more. I wish I could drive to the Piggly Wiggly right now and buy a dozen or so crottins. I’d make a fabulous warm goat cheese salad instead of an okay warm one. I have no regrets however about not milking a goat.