Friday June 4, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Roquefort cheese 

On this Day:

In 1070, Roquefort cheese was created in a cave near Roquefort, France.

Roquefort is a sheep milk cheese from Southern France, and is one of the world’s best known blue cheeses. Though similar cheeses are produced elsewhere, EU law dictates that only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort, as it is a recognised geographical indication, or has a protected designation of origin.

The cheese is white, tangy, crumbly and slightly moist, with distinctive veins of blue mold. It has a characteristic fragrance and flavor with a notable taste of butyric acid; the blue veins provide a sharp tang. It has no rind; the exterior is edible and slightly salty. A typical wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kg (5.5 and 6.6 lb), and is about 10 cm (4 in) thick. Each kilogram of finished cheese requires about 4.5 litres (1.2 US gal) of milk to produce. In France, Roquefort is often called the “King of Cheeses” or the “Cheese of Kings”, although those names are also used for other cheeses.

Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a youth, eating his lunch of bread and ewes’ milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold (Penicillium roqueforti) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort.

Though it is often claimed that Roquefort was praised by Pliny the Elder in AD 79, in fact, Pliny simply speaks of a cheese from Gaul, not mentioning its origin or even saying that it was blue; the story was promoted by the Société des Caves. On 4 June 1411, Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of the cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon as they had been doing for centuries.

In 1925, the cheese was the recipient of France’s first Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée when regulations controlling its production and naming were first defined. In 1961, in a landmark ruling that removed imitation, the Tribunal de Grande Instance at Millau decreed that, although the method for the manufacture of the cheese could be followed across the south of France, only those cheeses whose ripening occurred in the natural caves of Mont Combalou in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon were permitted to bear the name Roquefort.

The mold that gives Roquefort its distinctive character (Penicillium roqueforti) is found in the soil of the local caves. Traditionally, the cheesemakers extracted it by leaving bread in the caves for six to eight weeks until it was consumed by the mold. The interior of the bread was then dried to produce a powder. In modern times, the mold can be grown in a laboratory, which allows for greater consistency. The mold may either be added to the curd or introduced as an aerosol through holes poked in the rind.

Roquefort is made entirely from the milk of the Lacaune breed of sheep. Prior to the AOC regulations of 1925, a small amount of cow’s or goat’s milk was sometimes added. Around 4.5 L (0.99 imp gal; 1.2 US gal) of milk is required to make one kilogram of Roquefort.

The cheese is produced throughout the département of Aveyron and part of the nearby départements of Aude, Lozère, Gard, Hérault and Tarn.

As of 2009, there are seven Roquefort producers. The largest-volume brand by far is Roquefort Société made by the Société des Caves de Roquefort (a subsidiary of Lactalis), which holds several caves and opens its facilities to tourists, and accounts for around 60% of all production. Roquefort Papillon is also a well-known brand. The five other producers, each holding only one cave, are Carles, Gabriel Coulet, Fromageries occitanes, Vernières and Le Vieux Berger.

Around three million cheeses were made in 2005 (18,830 tons) making it, after Comté, France’s second most popular cheese.

Production of Roquefort cheese entails “4,500 people who herd special ewes on 2,100 farms producing milk … in a carefully defined oval grazing area across the Larzac Plain and up and down nearby hills and valleys.” Total production in 2008 of about 19,000 tons was reported. The proportion of Roquefort exported to the United States remained small, only 450 tons out of 3,700 in total exports. Spain, with purchases of 1,000 tons, was by far the largest foreign customer. In early 2009, Susan Schwab, the then-outgoing US Trade Representative, announced a 300% tariff on the cheese, apparently the highest level by far of any in the package of tariffs placed on dozens of European luxury goods in response to a European ban on hormone-treated US beef. The tariff was suspended several months later as the US and EU settled the dispute.

The regional cuisine in and around Aveyron includes many Roquefort-based recipes for main-course meat sauces, savory tarts and quiches, pies, and fillings.

Contrary to popular belief, Penicillium roqueforti does not produce penicillin. However, due to the presence of other anti-inflammatory proteins, it was common in country districts for shepherds to apply this cheese to wounds to avoid gangrene (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Did you hear about the cheese factory explosion in France?

It was Armageddon; all that was left was debrie.

Second, a Song:

Fred Mollin is an American and Canadian record producer, musician, film and TV composer, music director, music supervisor, and songwriter. He has produced records for Jimmy Webb, Johnny Mathis, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lamont Dozier and America, and has composed music for Beverly Hills, 90210, Friday the 13th (movies and television), Forever Knight, Hard Copy, and many more. Mollin rose to prominence early in his career by co-producing (with Matthew McCauley) Dan Hill’s international hit record, “Sometimes When We Touch”, in 1977. As an artist, he has written and produced music for a series of children’s albums, including Disney: Lullaby Album: Instrumental Favorites For Baby, peaking at #6 on January 26, 2001, on Billboard’s Kid Album music chart; and Disney’s Princess Lullaby Album, which peaked at No. 23 on October 25, 2002 (Billboard). He created the musical group Fred Mollin and the Blue Sea Band, composing and producing albums such as Finding Nemo-Ocean Favorites, Lightning McQueen’s Fast Tracks, and others, primarily released on Disney/Pixar albums.

Fred Mollin was born (February 10, 1953) in Amityville, New York to parents, Edward and Pauline Mollin, and is the youngest of three siblings.

He began playing the drums at age six, the guitar at age eleven, and formed his first band at age thirteen, performing at junior high and high school dances. After seeing the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, he was inspired to become a musician, singer, and songwriter. He attended Calhoun High School in Merrick, New York.

In an interview with Spirit of Harmony, Mollin said, “When my parents would tell their friends that I was leaving high school at 16 to make a life as a musician, they would all say ‘we’re so sorry,’ as if I was terminally ill. In that day and age, it would have sounded better if I had gone off to join the circus”.

At age 18, Mollin moved to Toronto, Canada in 1971. His brother Larry had moved there a year before and urged Fred to come and see the creative possibilities. Mollin never looked back and in 1972, they formed Canada’s first improvisational comedy group, Homemade Theatre. The four-man troupe consisted of Fred (musician, composer, singer, and actor), Phil Savath, Barry Flatman, and his brother, Larry, who also performed for three years on their own CBC television series, Homemade Television. In 1975, Homemade Theatre was awarded a Canadian Gold Record for their novelty single, “Santa Jaws”.

Mollin is known as a record producer with a long history of producing duets involving well-known and iconic artists. These include Willie Nelson, Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Vince Gill, Glen Campbell, Crosby and Nash, Art Garfunkel, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Michael McDonald, Amy Holland, David Pack, Sheryl Crow, Natalie Cole, Gregory Porter, Gloria Estefan, and Chris Cornell, among others. The albums by Jimmy Webb, Ten Easy Pieces, Just Across the River, and Still Within the Sound Of My Voice, have the most number of guest artist duet appearances. Other notable album examples with numerous duets are Johnny Mathis’ Sending You A Little Christmas, Kris Kristofferson’s The Austin Sessions, Barry Mann’s Soul And Inspiration, Lamont Dozier’s Reimagination, and Rita Wilson’s AM/FM.

Mollin’s most well-known duet is the 2008 duet, Billboard’s #4 country single, “Ready, Set, Don’t Go” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus.

Mollin co-created the children’s musical group Rugrats with Ronney Abramson and Ron Garant. The group’s 1983 debut album, Rugrat Rock, was co-produced by Mollin; it won the Best Children’s Album category at the Juno Awards of 1984. In 1985 they recorded a second album, The Rugrats Rock On.

In the early 2000s, Mollin began arranging and producing a series of Disney Lullaby albums: Disney’s Lullaby Album: Gentle Instrumental Favorites for Babies (2000), Disney’s Lullaby Album (2002), Disney’s Princess Lullaby Album (2002), Disney’s Christmas Lullaby Album (2003), Disney’s Lullaby & Goodnight (2004), and Disney’s Lullaby Album, Vol.2 (all released on Walt Disney Records).

In 2004, Mollin created Fred Mollin and the Blue Sea Band, a loose aggregate of studio musicians and guest singers Chris Stapleton, Tom Hambridge, Tim Ruppert, Lari White, Kevin Montgomery, Gunnar Nelson, Johnny Neel, and Webb Wilder, among others, primarily heard on Disney/Pixar albums (per Wikipedia).

Ratatoulie is a Disney/Pixar movie: A rat named Remy dreams of becoming a great French chef despite his family’s wishes and the obvious problem of being a rat in a decidedly rodent-phobic profession. When fate places Remy in the sewers of Paris, he finds himself ideally situated beneath a restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau. Despite the apparent dangers of being an unlikely, and certainly unwanted, visitor in the kitchen of a fine French restaurant, Remy’s passion for cooking soon sets into motion a hilarious and exciting rat race that turns the culinary world of Paris upside down.

Here is Fred Moullin and the Blue Sea Band performing Cheese Please.  Unfortunately there isn’t a video associated with the song. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.” – Luis Bunuel

Further to the Canadian Pacific Railway Smile, Russ Waugh of Siglavik, Manitoba writes:

“Hi Dave, a long read, but a good education on connecting the provinces.  Russ”


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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