Saturday, February 21, 2009

The French Cheese Wars

HERE IN NORTH AMERICA, we tend to be consumed by Stevie and his pictures, and Barack and his struggles with the hard-of-thinking, so it's easy to forget about what's really important. Here's a gem from Der Spiegel, by Ullrich Fichtner.


It was a typical globalization-era war that pitted tradition against profits. A large cheese factory wanted to change the Camembert recipe and began a dirty fight against small producers. This time, though, tradition emerged victorious.

The bitter dispute began in March 2007, when Lactalis and the Isigny Sainte-Mère dairy co-operative announced, in a coordinated move, their intention to halt the large-scale production of raw milk Camembert. It may not sound like much, but this was the first shot in the Norman cheese war, a thundering, unexpected explosion.

Suddenly the world's most famous cheese was in jeopardy. It was a severe blow to French national pride. This was about France's culinary splendor, which like the beret, the bottle of wine and the baguette, is as much a part of the French self-image as it is a time-honored cliché. 

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