San Francisco and black people distinctly do not remind me of cheese, so I thought this would be a good time to discuss a type of cheese I do not think I have ever eaten.
Camembert is made from unpasteurized cow's milk, and is ripened by the moulds Penicillium candida and Penicillium camemberti for at least three weeks. It is produced in small rounds, about 250 grams in weight, which are then typically wrapped in paper and packaged in thin wooden boxes.
When fresh, it is quite crumbly and relatively hard, but characteristically ripens and becomes more runny and strongly flavoured as it ages.
Camembert can be used in many dishes, but is also popularly eaten uncooked on bread or with wine or meat, to enjoy the subtle flavour and texture which does not survive heating. It is usually served at room temperature.
Camembert was reputedly invented in 1791 by Marie Harel, a farmer from Normandy, thanks to advice from a priest who came from Brie.
However, the origin of the cheese we know today as camembert is more likely to rest with the beginnings of the industrialisation of the cheese-making process at the end of the 19th century. In 1890, an engineer, M. Ridel invented the wooden box which was used to carry the cheese and helped to send it for longer distances, in particular to America where it became very popular. These boxes are still used today.
Before fungi were properly understood, the colour of Camembert rind was a matter of chance, most commonly blue-grey, with brown spots. From the early 20th century onwards the rind has been more commonly pure white, but it was not until the mid-1970s that pure white became standard.
The cheese was famously issued to French troops during World War I, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result. It has many other roles in French culture, literature and history. It is now internationally known, and many local varieties are made around the world.
The cheese is said to have inspired Salvador Dalí to create his famous painting, The Persistence of Memory. Its "melting" watches were inspired by the sight of a melting wheel of over-ripe Camembert.
The Camembert de Normandie was granted a protected designation of origin in 1992 after the original AOC in 1983.
Boy, I do like cheese! I suppose I will have to try Camembert sometime. Has anyone else tried it? It's so cute --- here it looks like a melting wedding cake on a hot July afternoon.