Fr Cn De Es Pt It

XII - Marie Bocquet, Fromagère

Painting by Jean-Marc Guéroux

Being an English émigré, Elisa knew nothing about cheese. Like children, she preferred smooth and creamy whipped fromage blanc with raspberry purée. In other words, she was an amateur when it came to this key subject of French culture.

She may not have liked cheese, but she loved the cheese-maker, Marie-Bocquet, who was blonde and beautiful with rosy cheeks and a milky complexion. Her freshness and naturalness harmonised perfectly with her shop, which was well-stocked like an olfactory chart with the sweet scent of French heritage.

Elisa often stopped by Marie’s shop in the morning to ask for a block of butter and a container of fromage blanc from the handsome young man who served her with a bemused smile that forgave her odd order. One day, Marie Bocquet, who was sad to see Elisa missing out on the essential things in life, gently said to her: “You should try my Fourme d’Ambert today. It’s particularly creamy.”

Marie’s emotion and kindness broke through Elisa’s hesitation and made her see cheese in a new light. All the care and love that Marie had put into maturing and refining the cheese made it a work of art, a “temporary installation”. So, this is how Elisa tried her first slice of Fourme, followed by a very fruity Comté that Marie recommended the next day, then a St. Marcellin and a very dry Crottin de Chavignol… with a glass of Bordeaux Château de Seguin 2005, also recommended by Marie Bocquet, the delightful cheese-maker of the Rue des Abbesses.

This is where she learned when a cheese is said to “make your nose wrinkle” or have a “hazelnut” flavour. Elisa preferred cheeses that didn’t make her nose “wrinkle” too much. She discovered Comté cut into cubes with small pieces of dried figs and sheep’s cheese with a layer of quince paste or black cherry jam. She learned how to distinguish cheeses by their scent and tried to find words to describe the taste of each one.

A French language challenge for an Anglophone.

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