Cheese has been providing nourishment to humans for thousands of years; archaeological evidence point to Egyptians making cheese over three thousand years ago. But even before that anecdotal evidence suggests that sometime as far back as 8000BCE some nomadic tribe transporting milk in animal skins could have inadvertently led to its fermentation and the formation of cheese.
Whatever its origins, by Roman times, legionnaires marching across the continent were carrying cheese as an essential ingredient in their ration kit. These cheese, often referred to as ‘caseus formatus’ from the Latin caseus for cheese and formatus for formed or shaped, because of the different shapes they ended up in soldiers’ kits, is the origin of the word for cheese in many European languages. The Dutch call their cheese ‘kaas’, the Germans dub it Kase; the Irish labeled it cais, the Italians went with formaggio and the French not to be outdone named it fromage.
Many countries have their own native variety of cheese which they claim is the pinnacle of cheesiness: the Americans tout their Monterey Jack, the British hold up their Cheddar; the Italians take pride in their Parmigiano-Reggiano, while the Spanish have their Manchego. But it is the French who take the cheese cake with over 400 varieties of their fond fromage.
No matter its origins or the variety claimed to be the best, cheese maintains a classy reputation taking pride of place on many dinner tables. And, many would vouch that wine would have been desolate without its perfect marriage to cheese. Cheese making basically involves incorporating an enzyme, usually rennet, to separate milk into solid curds and liquid whey, and then pressing the curd to form cheese in different textures, flavors and forms.
The French connection to cheese is extremely strong because they have been meticulously perfecting the art of cheese making for centuries. However, being French, they were never content with just getting it perfectly right. The result is hundreds of varieties of delectable French cheese, representing nearly every region of France and reflecting the wide and rich cultural diversity of this land.
So it was not surprising when the Mayots, a family of agricultural workers in the Artois region of Northern France, led by Charlemagne Mayot and his wife, opened a small bakery in Croix, near Lille and eventually took over another bakery business owned by the PAUL family. From this humble bakery, five generations of Mayots have been producing specialty breads using the time-honored techniques passed down by their ancestors. In 1985, the company opened its first bakery outside France, in Spain and since then the bakery has spread its outlets to over 20 countries including Kuwait.
As it celebrates its 125th anniversary of establishment, PAUL in Kuwait is spreading a luscious array of cheese to go with their specialty breads and dishes throughout its outlets in the country during the months of November and December.
Among the delights on offer are goat cheese; with its pristine white color and distinct flavor it is one of the most amazing foods in the world — a humble basic for some, a gourmet delight for others. Moreover, when it comes to fat and calories, goat cheese has the advantage over cheese made from cow’s milk.
One of those rarest cheeses that can be eaten at various stages of its maturity, crottin de Chavignol is often eaten clothed in fine herbs when fresh from the cheese vat. A few weeks later when it starts smelling stronger as it gets dry and brittle, it develops a highly pronounced delectable flavor and matures onto an even more robust taste that still never gets sour.
The soft brie cheese named after the French region Brie, where it was originally created, several hundred years ago, was one of the tributes which had to be paid to the French kings. The best thing about brie cheese is its very mild creamy appeal to anyone who does not enjoy strong tasting cheese. Also, its mild taste allows for the soft white crust of this smooth cheese to be relished, instead of being cut off.
The fact that over 18,000 tons of Roquefort cheese is manufactured each year, and the cheese is exported worldwide explains why it is the most famous French blue cheese. The cheese has been made from the milk of one single breed of sheep, the ‘Lacaune’ breed since the Middle Ages, and has been famous for many centuries. This cheese often called the 'cheese of kings and popes' and a favorite of Emperor Charlemagne breaks into little pieces easily even though moist.
Raclette cheese has a thin, brownish-orange colored rind and a pale yellow pate with a few scattered open holes; its name comes from the French word ‘racler’, which means ‘to scrape’. Possessing a very distinctive pleasant, aromatic smell with a creamy texture, which does not separate even when melted, Raclette varies from nutty, slightly acidic to milky flavor. Made on both sides of the French and Swiss Alps, this semi-hard cheese is made using ancestral methods with unpasteurized milk of cows grazing on the alpine meadows. While Switzerland supplies 80 percent of Raclettes, French Raclettes are slightly softer with a smooth and creamy flavor.
Happy winters, stay healthy and bon appétit!