On the eve of the US election, when the man with the orange hair was sticking needles into a voodoo doll of Hilary Clinton, I was learning about the unifying quality of cheese. France’s most famous ‘Comte’ cheese.
Comte comes from the Jura region of France, where 3000 dairy farmers work together with 180 cheese makers and 60 cheese maturers (affineurs), They have the single collective ambition of creating something of beauty; something not one of the 3,240 individuals could create alone.
I suspect the US could benefit from a few lessons in the productive power of unity over division from our French cheese-loving friends. In another four years the story may be different, but right now the government-elect in the States are busy with that wall and massaging their mean streak. Like many on this side of the pond I am fearful for them, and the way this slide into paranoia and selfishness will play out on the global stage. The Brexit vote in the U.K. loosened the genie in the bottle, the States have smashed it to smithereens.
Now, more than ever, we need to celebrate the positive qualities of kindness, generosity, harmony and collective goodness. Yes, it’s a bit ‘Pollyanna’ but it’s all we have to fight the darkness we are descending into. And therein ends the over-dramatic soap box schpeil. Pollyanna will now step down and go grab a glass of ‘vin jaune‘ and a plate of cheese.
It takes quite a special and gentle approach to create a great cheese like Comte. It can’t be rushed. It’s a highly collaborative process; each element is crucial to the end result. Each evening the village cheese maker does the rounds of dairy farms and chews the fat with the farmer, discussing the quality of the milk and it’s role in the alchemy of making France’s most famous cheese.
Comte’s home is the Jura region – a lush and beautiful stretch of France on the Franco-Swiss border. A bucolic setting inhabited by the allegedly stubborn Comte-making Montbéliarde cows and the magnificent vineyards further up the hills. The vineyards of Jura are famed for the huge diversity in the types of wines they produce. Not surprisingly, they pair beautifully with Comte cheese.
While the expansive selection of wines of the Jura region is not unexpected, the range of Comte was quite surprising. It tasted like completely different cheeses depending on how long it had been matured for, the quality of the milk used and human intervention in the cheese making process. The young creamy 4 month old Gouda-like worked beautifully with a lightly effervescent cremant, while the sharp crystal-speckled 30 month old hummed lyrically when paired with something of the intensity of the area’s Juane Vin.
It will definitely take more than a glass of zingy white and a slab of cheese to put this world to rights again and we are in for a rough ride over the next few years. But it’s reassuring to know that in this precarious world, collaboration and patience can lead to such magnificent outcomes. Maybe it will catch on.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Comte: The Wonderful World of the Jura for this event. And it was indeed a wonderful world. As always, my thoughts. All mine (ah ha ha).
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