Camembert Clash Settled—For Now
Last year, the New York Times reported about the battle in Normandy over how its beloved Camembert could be made. It was a classic David-meets-Goliath tale of cheesy proportions: on one side you had large dairy operations lobbying the French authorities to allow them to call their cheeses Camemberts even if they had been made with pasteurized milk; on the other side you had the small-scale traditional Norman cheesemakers, still making the cheese from raw milk, ladling every scoopful of curd by hand, trying to fight this change to the decades-old A.O.C. legislation.
Well, the Guardian reported this weekend that David was victorious: A.O.C. Camembert must still be made with raw milk.
However, the article does imply that more battles are yet to come in a French culture that is increasingly eschewing traditional methods of food production towards a more processed, factory-based, dare-I-call-it-American, approach to food. The irony is particularly rich since this is happening at a time when diners in the U.S. (and, according to the piece in the Guardian, the U.K. and Spain) are pining for small-scale, local, artisanally-produced foods. In fact, the Charleston Post and Courier reported last month that "Artisanal cheese is one of the fastest growing segments of the $59 billion gourmet food industry."
In the end, though, it seems safe to say that we can count on the French to be hard-nosed about the ancient cultural traditions they've inherited. Camembert will NOT be made with pasteurized milk, at least for the time being. Just as Americans have finally begun to appreciate food the way the French have done for ages, I think it's also time for us to realize that we often must fight to preserve these small-scale methods of food production. They often don't stand a chance in the face of a food industry driven by the bottom line.