Country Mouse on French cheeses

The countryside is shifting from its white phase-snow and snowdrops-to its yellow period: daffodils, forsythia, primroses and the much-underrated lesser celandine, whose yellow star-like flowers are lighting up the banks.

Simultaneously, the French are having a yellow period, but in the sense of bureaucratic cowardice. They have decided to destroy one of their great traditions: that of making Camembert with unpasteurised milk according to a 1791 recipe given to Mariel Harel, an inhabitant of the village of Camembert, by a priest from Brie who was fleeing French Revolutionaries.

Camembert needs unpasteurised milk to give it that unmistakable pungent gout; without it, it is a shadow of its smelly glory-like looking at the Mona Lisa through tracing paper.

Charles de Gaulle famously said: ‘How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?’ The answer now seems to be by creating fromage as sterile as possible.

Fortunately, the British Cheese industry is thriving due to unpasteurised cheeses; the current supreme champion British Cheese is the camembert-like Tunworth. How will the French cope with the shame? MH