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Something Cheesy

Arnie Greenberg

I grew up in a house where all the cheeses I saw were processed slices used for a grilled cheese sandwich, cottage cheese for my mother’s low calorie salads and the occasional piece of mild Cheddar. I ate little of any of them and never knew what I was missing.

As a teen-ager I went to France. In Paris, one day, I watched a man sip wine throughout his meal. He finished the whole bottle at one sitting and was munching away through his cheese platter desert while I watched in wonder. I had heard tales of French eating habits but I was so provincial in my diet that wine was something one sipped in moderation and cheese was something I stayed away from.

This is not explained out of  pride but what I AM proud of is that I’ve learned a few things since then, and while I’m no aficionado about either wine or cheese, I’ve come a long way.

Today I received an article by a friend, Rena Roseman, published in a newsletter of the American Institute of Wine and Food. She has been studying French cheeses and is now trying to get people interested in what’s available from there. Rena thought it would be fun to invite friends to a party and ask each to bring a cheese of choice. Then they all tasted each other’s offerings and expanded their horizons. She pointed out that such a party could never take place in France. There is no need for it because cheese is part of the culture. Here, many of us need to be educated.

While no connoisseur, I have examined the French choice of cheese in different areas. I am developing a taste for many and while I now consume more wine than I ever did, I do not drink a full bottle of wine with my lunch.

While on my trips to France I have discovered the brandy-smoked Epoisses from Burgundy. I prefer soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert from Normandie. But they are being shunted aside for a ripe Roquefort or a mild Emmenthal or a gentle Cantal. Mixed with potatoes and flavored with garlic, a Cantal makes the regional aligot a favorite in the Auvergne region. 

I discovered Pont l’Eveque that creamy cheese from France’s northwest.  I tried it with a local cider. You should too. The cheese smells stronger than it tastes. I learned that the name comes from the bridge (pont) in L’Eveque. They cider & cheese compliment each other.  And if the smell doesn’t bother you, Rena suggests that you try Maroilles de Normandie, which is a workingman’s version of Pont L’Eveque.

When I travel farther east, in Alsace, I prefer Munster. Alsace is a good region to discover new palate pleasers. There too, the wines including the great Champagnes can delight one but the German influence also helped the beer industry. The people of the northeast consume gallons of Kronenbourg. I did too, recently. I found the Champagnes to my liking but too expensive.

But getting back to my friend and her party, she listed the French cheeses her guests liked best. She talked about Gaperon, “a medium strength cow cheese from the Auvergne made with pressed curds, chunks of garlic peppercorn, with an edible rind.” It sounded familiar to me.

In the Savoie region, she said,” Reblechon, a mild, semi-soft cow cheese with a brie-like texture, tasted sweet, beefy and nutty.” She also recommended Tomme de Savoie, a raw cow’s milk cheese aged for at least 6 months. Tomme refers to the shape of the smallish round cheese. There are Tommes from different regions.

Many of the other cheeses included were not French and so I’ll omit them, but she did recommend Merlement from the Comte region, which, she says it has a beefy smell reminiscent of Camembert. Rena finished her article with a keen observation.

“It is true that the French have a quality of life where many of life’s pleasures are a part of their daily routine. Delicious cheese is so ubiquitous there and the French enjoy it so regularly that they may not need to make a special evening of it. But in America, unless we modify our characters and incorporate these sorts of pleasures into a lifestyle, the next best thing is to reserve special times where we can learn about and experience them”

The writer makes a strong point. Cheese has been basic to the French diet for generations. The North American palate has to be developed. Maybe a party is the way to go. I may organize one myself. It’s never too late to learn.

For those interested in knowing more about cheese, contact Rena Roseman at her company, Say Cheese Please, at 310-230-1251 or email at:

Maybe she can organize a cheese tasting party for you.

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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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