The typical market found in small villages in France is an amazing experience! Where else can you find live chickens, local produce, delicious baked goods, flowers, clothing and of course cheese. Ah.... the cheese...
To classify cheese French cheese can be a challenge. You could use the region of origin, the type of milk, or perhaps the fat content. But, course, France has its own system. Known as les huit familles de fromage, or eight families of cheese, this system of classification is based roughly on some key characteristics of the cheese. They need all eight families, because there are a lot of different cheeses in France.
The eight families are:
Fresh Cheeses or fromages frais,
Soft Cheeses with Natural Rind,
Soft Cheeses with Washed Rind
Pressed and Cooked Cheeses
To pick a favourite is a very personal choice. And for me it depends on the time of day, what I am drinking and the weather.
At my summer lunch time picnic, I will often pick a chèvre (Goat's milk cheese is fun - it comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and sometimes special little boxes), brie or camembert served on a fresh baguette (also found at the market) accompanied by a glass of the local rosé.
On a cool spring evening, I will serve a blue cheese (the characteristic flavor of blue cheeses tends to be sharp and salty) or a pressed cheese like Cantal or Ossau-Iraty with a local Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet is a richer wine than Merlot and goes wonderfully with stronger cheeses.
With all of these varieties, there is a lot you could learn about French cheese. The most important thing is to pull up a chair or a picnic blanket and start tasting.