About Me

My photo
Southern France
Lynn Deasy is a freelance writer, author, foodie, and garden tinkerer. She lives in a 600 year old house in southern France with her husband, Christophe. Currently, she is looking for a literary agent for her memoir CA VA? STORIES FROM RURAL LIFE IN SOUTHERN FRANCE which examines the oddities of French provincial living from an outsider’s point of view through a series of adventures that provide more than a fair share of frustration, education, admiration, and blisters…. yes, lots and lots of blisters. Lynn blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and sometimes Friday.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Lesson in Geography - Via My Plate

One thing that bothers Christophe is when I jump up at the end of the meal and insist on taking a photo of the cheese he is about to open.  “You’ve had all the time in the world to take this photo, why do you always wait until the last minute?”  He complains.  I can’t blame him; leaving him with a slice of bread in hand and a knife in the other is not exactly the most intelligent thing to do.  But, very few people get away with what I do, so I take this moment as a won challenge.

When he finally gets his cheese back, Christophe dives into it: Tomme de Savoie.  Learning about French cheeses is like a geography lesson.  It’s more than seeing where they are on the map; it’s about learning the terrain.  For example, when I ask if Tomme de Savoie is made from cows’ milk, I get a “bien sûr”, as if I had just asked if the Earth spins. 

“Why, bien sûr?”  I ask.  “What is so certain about that?” 

And that is where the geography lesson starts.

Savoy or Savoie is located in the Rhône-Alpes, or the South-West region of France, right next to Italy.  It has a complex climate; it can have lots of perturbations; hot summers and cold winters, or even areas called Mediterranean climates (hot, dry summers).  This is the French Alps, so it’s mountainous, and with the high cliffs comes the plunging green valleys.  Clearly, there is a logic and the origins of Tomme de Savoie, and like most cheeses, reflect the humble beginning of the peasants who live in the region centuries ago.  They had cows, which were suited for the land, and thus their cheese was made from their milk.  A little like not seeing the forest through the trees, I didn’t see what was obvious.

It’s a good lesson in logic once the terrain is better known.  I know oranges don’t come from Maine and wheat isn’t grown in Arizona.  Not all French would be so confident in that statement, but they do know their own country and what comes from where.  This lesson is learned at the dinner table, from the Alsacian wines to the Southern fruits to the territorial cheeses.  France is small compared to the United States, but it is comprised of lots of various climates that change dramatically from one mile to the next.  The local products reflect the land and knowing what’s going on climatically and geographically helps one see why certain products are produced where they are.  Once the connection is made, reason kicks in and bien sûr, of course Tomme de Savoie is made with cow’s milk.  It couldn’t be made with anything else.

No comments:

Post a Comment