This article was published in France Today magazine. Here’s a taster:
Artisan Cheese Makers – An Endangered Species
The Dordogne region in South West France is an ancient land of green river valleys, orange stunted oak forests (where the truffles grow and the wild boar snuffle), pale limestone hamlets and unpalatable purple wine.
Until about 50 years ago, almost everyone in the area made a living as part of self-sufficient farming communities. When I say made a living, they didn’t actually make money as such; money literally didn’t exist for most people. Transactions at the weekly markets were carried out entirely through bartering, and the baker operated a notches-in-pegs system to keep a record of how many loaves customers had taken from their sacks of flour. People’s houses had beaten earth floors (some still do) and all the cooking was done over an open fire.
But locals felt rich. They had as much food as they could want – including foie gras and truffles – and a varied diet that changed with the dramatic seasons.
Now, modern farming has crept in, with large single-crop fields that stamp on diversity, and food prices so low that a quarter of farms are lost every decade, along with skills and communities.
Still, a few brave and determined souls are standing strong against the tide and demonstrating that small-scale “human-sized” agriculture is best for everyone, including the consumer.
Christelle and Dominique Foucaut, who live a mile down the road from me, are such souls. They have been making goats cheese for a living, for 25 years. Their traditional cabécou cheeses – small, flat, soft, delicate, fresh, sometimes gooey and one of the region’s favourite specialities – are in huge demand at local markets, but they intentionally keep production levels low in order to maintain their ‘artisan’ lifestyle.
See the full article, Artisan Cheese Makers – An Endangered Species.