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My French Life: Lunch in Le Touqet and a secret cheese story

Moules Savoyarde at Ch'ti Charivari, Le Touquet
Moules Savoyarde at Ch’ti Charivari, Le Touquet

Going for lunch in Le Touquet always causes a dilemma – there’s such a vast choice of restaurants, brasseries, bars and cafes that we can take all day agreeing on which one to eat at.  This time though it was unanimous – we decided to go for the newly opened Ch’ti Charivari, a restaurant with a Savoie mountain theme, mostly because we liked the name and the cable car inside!

It was thoroughly pleasant being able to sit outside in the sun after all the rain we’ve had and I couldn’t resist going for the Moules Savoyarde – mussels cooked Savoie style which I’d never heard of before.

The menu said that the sauce was a blend of white wine, cream and reblochon with herbs and I wondered aloud what reblochon was. The lady sitting on the table next to me heard and told me that reblochon is a cheese and it’s been produced for about 800 years – it’s an ancient recipe with a secret past. In the Middle Ages French peasants in the Alps of the Savoie region were forced to pay tax on the milk yield from their cow herds. In order to pay less tax they declared a lower milk quota than was the true case and if the tax man came a-checking they would only half milk the cow to back up their records.  When the hated tax man left, they would milk the cow for a second time – the French verb reblocher apparently means “to squeeze a cow’s udder again”.  The second milking which produced much creamier milk, would go to produce cheese which they called reblochon.  The reblochon was kept secret for obvious reasons and was used for personal consumption by the family.  This went on until the days of the French Revolution when the milk tax was waived.

That’s not the end of the reblochon story though. Because it’s made with raw milk it is banned in the United States which frowns upon such things and when I looked it up to make sure that the lady in the restaurant wasn’t just spinning me a tale it seems to be true.  There were even some people on the net claiming that desperate American gourmands were trying to “score” the real thing and that there’s a thriving black market in the US so it looks like this cheese still has a secret story.

Well, all you US readers of this article who would like to try it but don’t have access, I can tell you it’s still made with the second milking from the cow and it’s quite nice and has a very earthy taste when its cooked with mussels and cream and wine!

A bientôt

Janine

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