The Good Life France Magazine

The Good Life France Magazine brings you the best of France - inspirational and exclusive features, fabulous photos, mouth-watering recipes, tips, guides, ideas and much more...

Published by the award winning team at The Good Life France

1 year ago

Issue No. 14

From Paris to the Loire Valley, and everywhere in between, how to live like a millionaire in Nice on a budget, French island hopping, a fairy tale chateau and Monet's Garden in Giverny. Everything you want to know about France and more.

Cheesy Lessons by Keith

Cheesy Lessons by Keith Van Sickle, an American in Provence When my wife Val and I began spending time in France, we knew that we had much to learn. There was the language, of course, but also the customs and quirks of the French. Little did we know that some of our most memorable lessons would be about cheese. One lesson came when we had our first meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. It was at Le Cep in Beaune, in the heart of the Burgundy wine country. The meal started at 8pm and went on until almost midnight. Course after course of wonderful food arrived. We were stuffed! And then they wheeled out the cheese cart. This was our first experience with a cheese course and Le Cep’s cart was enormous. It looked like an aircraft carrier! There were dozens of different cheeses, beautifully arranged. But without labels. The waiter indicated that we should choose what we would like. We were flummoxed, as our knowledge of cheese was quite limited back then - Monterey Jack, Cheddar and Parmesan pretty much covered it. Luckily for me, the lady always chooses first in France. I could let Val sort it out and follow her lead. Val, always clever, explained that we were new to this game and would the waiter please recommend a nice selection?

Which he kindly did, choosing seven cheeses and making a circle of them around the edge of her plate. He told Val that she should start with number one and work her way around to number seven. I asked for the same selection and soon we were happily munching away. The cheeses were delicious! The first was a mild chevre and the others got progressively more full-bodied. Val eats faster than I do and she was the first to taste cheese number seven. She smiled with pleasure and said, “Oh, this is good. Take a big bite!” I should have known better. Have you ever eaten Époisses? It’s usually described as “pungent” – now there’s a word! It is so strong that it sears the inside of your mouth. You can’t taste much of anything after you eat it. Yes, cheese number seven was an Époisses. Definitely not something to take a big bite of. But as I blissfully went ahead and started chewing, my eyes began to water and I urgently looked for a way to spit it out. But here we were in Le Cep, an elegant Michelin-starred restaurant and that’s just not done. So I wiped my eyes and kept going while Val covered her mouth and giggled. I love Époisses today but let’s just say it’s an acquired taste. And I had not yet acquired it. Lesson #1: Try it, you’ll like it! (eventually)

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