Cheese. A visit to France is not complete without tasting some of the gorgeous French cheeses. After the main meal in France, a course of cheese is often served with the salad before the dessert. In fact, even French school lunches often include a cheese course (drool over samples of French lunch menus here). When we were in France, we were told that there are so many types of French cheeses that you could try a different variety every day for a year and not ever repeat. We decided to hold our own French cheese taste test!
Here are some more facts about French cheese that we learned:
- the average French citizen consume almost 25 kilos (~54 pounds!) a year of cheese (2nd highest in the world after Greece)
- due to cultural tradition, and geography, French cheese can be made of milk from cow (vache), goat (chèvre) or ewe (brebis). Check out this cheese encyclopedia to see the huge variety, a map of the region, and the best season for each type
- different regions or even towns specialize in different flavors
We conducted our own French cheese taste test to learn about different types of French cheese. First, we went to the supermarket together and the kids helped to pick out the cheeses. The cheeses had flags that helped to label the origin of the different cheese, and we had fun searching for the French flag. Here are the cheeses we picked out, and our reactions:
- Port Salut: soft, a little stinky, pungent. Not the kids’ favorite:).
- Bleu D’Avergne: creamy, blue cheese with a strong taste for kids. They thought it was “cool” that the blue is an edible mold.
- Fromage de Meaux a.k.a. Brie: I love it, the kids can’t get over the rind, and wanted to eat just the middle!
- Gruyère de Comté: very easy to like, semi-hard
- Mimolette: orange, rock-hard, carmelized cheese- the kids’ favorite!
- Chèvre: French for “goat-” soft, easily spread on bread especially when warmed.
We set up the cheeses on a large cutting board, and tasted tiny samples of each. The rule was “you don’t have to like it, but you have to taste it.” For added fun my kids had a count down and would try each cheese together after “3-2-1!” Ask your kids:
What does it look like? (colors, shapes, textures)
What does it smell like?
Touch it: is it hard, soft, or in between?
Then taste the French cheese and everyone can share their opinions!